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Growth factors

Information on having growth factors for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), how you have them and the possible side effects.

What growth factors are

Growth factors are natural substances that stimulate the bone marrow to make blood cells. Some growth factors are used during chemotherapy treatment.

How growth factors work

Growth factors increase the number of white blood cells and stem cells in the blood. 

When you have growth factors

You might have growth factors in the following situations.

After chemotherapy

You might have growth factors if you are at risk of infection after chemotherapy. If your white cell count is low for a long while after chemotherapy you are at an increased risk of getting an infection. The growth factor helps your white blood count go up more quickly. This could lower the risk of infection.

Before having stem cells for a transplant

You might have growth factors before having stem cells collected for a stem cell transplant. Daily growth factor injections make your bone marrow grow many more stem cells than normal. These extra stem cells spill over into the bloodstream. They are then collected by a machine.

The stem cells are frozen and kept until you need to have them back as a stem cell transplant, after intensive chemotherapy.

How you have growth factors

You have growth factors as an injection under the skin. This is usually in the tummy (abdomen), or into an arm or a leg.
 

Before your growth factor treatment

You have a blood test to check your level of white blood cells. If the level is low you might need growth factor treatment.

Growth factor type

Doctors sometimes use the growth factor called granulocyte colony stimulating factor or G-CSF during ALL treatment.

There are different types of G-CSF called:

  • filgrastim
  • lenograstim
  • pegfilgrastim- this is a long acting type

Side effects

Side effects for growth factors include:

  • itching around the injection site
  • pain in your bones
  • fever

Let your team know if you have any side effects. 

Itching around the injection site often gets better on it's own and painkillers can help if you have bone pain.

Information and help

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