Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
 

Anemia and Chemotherapy

Cancer Treatment--Anemia and Chemotherapy

The side effects of chemotherapy depend on the type of chemotherapy, duration of treatment, and the amount given. Anticipating and managing anemia can help to minimize it and avoid blood transfusions.

Anemia and chemotherapy

As each person's individual medical profile and diagnosis is different, so is his/her reaction to treatment. Side effects may be severe, mild, or absent. Be sure to discuss with your cancer care team possible side effects of treatment before the treatment begins.

Red blood cells (RBCs) carry oxygen to other cells throughout your body. Chemotherapy can damage your body’s ability to make RBCs, so body tissues do not get enough oxygen, a condition called anemia. People who have anemia may feel very weak or tired, dizzy, faint, or short of breath, or may feel that their hearts are beating very fast. Consult your physician immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.

You will be given frequent tests to measure your hemoglobin and hematocrit during your therapy. These numbers are used to watch for anemia. If your blood is too low in red blood cells, you may need a blood transfusion or medications such as epoetin or darbepoetin to raise the number of red blood cells in your body. These medicines take time to work. If the anemia is severe or you have symptoms, your doctor may decide not to wait until they work and to give you a transfusion.

What can I do if I am anemic?

Consider the following strategies to help manage anemia and fatigue:

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