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Growth factors

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

When you have growth factors

You might have growth factors in the following situations:

After chemotherapy

Your white blood cell count drops after having chemotherapy and so you are at an increased risk of getting an infection. The longer your white cell count is low the greater your risk. Having a growth factor helps your white cell count go up more quickly. This could lower the risk of infection.

Before stem cell collection for a transplant

Growth factors are given before collecting stem cells for a stem cell transplant. Stem cells develop into blood cells, such as white blood cells. Daily growth factor injections make the bone marrow produce many more stem cells than normal. These extra stem cells spill over into the bloodstream. They are then collected by a machine.

You have the stem cells through a drip after having high dose chemotherapy. In ALL, most stem cells are collected from a donor.

How you have growth factors

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

You have the injections every day. How long you have them for depends on why you are having them. Your nurse will talk to you about this.

You might have growth factors through a drip into your bloodstream (intravenously) after having a transplant.

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

Common side effects of 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 its own and painkillers can help if you have bone pain.

Last reviewed: 
31 Jul 2018
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