Cancer Q&A, April 28, 2014

I am a cancer patient and my doctor says we need to be vigilant about anemia. Why?

Anemia is a condition in which the body lacks a sufficient number of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the body’s tissues.

Because tissues cannot function normally with this lack of oxygen, symptoms such as fatigue and shortness of breath greatly affect not only the quality of life, but cancer treatment as well.

A physician will decide if a patient has anemia by measuring the concentrations of hemoglobin in the blood, the red blood cell volume or red blood cell number.

Many people with cancer develop anemia, especially during treatment.

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may make it harder for the body to produce more red blood cells by damaging bone marrow. Anemia can also develop due to nutritional deficiencies or from excessive bleeding.

Whatever the cause, anemia can have a major impact on the way you feel.

The most common symptoms are fatigue and weakness. Other signs of anemia are difficulty breathing, headaches, heart palpitations, an increased heart rate and feeling faint when standing or sitting. Treatment for anemia will depend on the severity of the symptoms as well as the cause of the anemia.

Doctors may prescribe medication or supplements, such as B-12 or iron, for their patients. Some people might benefit from a blood transfusion. Speak with your doctor if you are concerned about symptoms you are experiencing.

For more information, contact Courtney Britton, librarian at Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, at (225) 927-2273, cbritton@cancerservices.org, or visit the Education Center at 550 Lobdell Ave.

รคINTERNET RESOURCES:

Anemia – National Cancer Institute

http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/chemo-side-effects/anemia

Anemia – American Society for Clinical Oncology

cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/side-effects/anemia

This column is presented as a service by Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, a United Way affiliate.