Chemotherapy-Induced Anemia: Symptoms, Treatment, and More

Chemotherapy is a standard treatment for many different types of cancer.

Chemicals in chemotherapy drugs stop cancer cells from growing and spreading. These chemicals can also damage healthy cells, especially those that divide quickly. This includes cells in your skin, digestive tract and bone marrow.

Damage to these cells can cause side effects. A common side effect is chemotherapy-induced anemia.

Anemia means you don’t have enough red blood cells to properly carry oxygen around your body. This condition develops when chemotherapy drugs damage the cells in your bone marrow that make red blood cells.

Anemia usually resolves once chemotherapy is stopped, but can lead to potentially serious complications if it develops. In this article, we break down the causes of chemotherapy-induced anemia, signs and symptoms, and potential complications.

According to them, more than 100 types of drugs have been developed to treat cancer University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Different drugs disrupt cancer growth in different ways, and all have potential side effects.

The chemicals in chemotherapy drugs primarily target cells that are replicating rapidly. Along with cancer cells, these drugs can damage healthy cells. A low red blood cell count caused by these drugs is called chemotherapy-induced anemia.

According to chemotherapy, the erythroid progenitor cell is particularly vulnerable Research 2018. These cells are found in your bone marrow and become red blood cells. If many of these cells are damaged, you can develop a low red blood cell count.

A low red blood cell count means your blood has less hemoglobin than average. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to all of your body tissues.

That is appreciated 70 percent of people who receive chemotherapy develop anemia. It’s most common in people with:

At least 50 to 60 percent of people with these cancers need at least one blood transfusion. A transfusion is a procedure in which donated blood is given to you through an IV.

Chemotherapy-induced anemia is also common in people with low pre-treatment hemoglobin levels and in people receiving platinum-based chemotherapy drugs American Cancer Society. These drugs include:

  • cisplatin
  • carboplatin
  • oxaliplatin
  • nedaplatin
  • lobaplatin

Accordingly Research 2019, Signs and symptoms of chemotherapy-induced anemia may overlap with cancer symptoms. These symptoms often include:

Other signs and symptoms may include:

Research from 2020 suggests that anemia can negatively impact survival rates in people receiving cancer treatment. Severe anemia can delay or reduce some of your chemotherapy, which can lead to worse outcomes.

Treatment for anemia may include:

  • get blood transfusions
  • Taking medication (erythropoietin-stimulating agents)
  • Supplementation of vitamins and minerals your body needs to form red blood cells

blood transfusion

In a blood transfusion, blood is obtained from a donor through an IV. Donor blood must match your blood group, otherwise your immune system can attack the foreign blood cells. Transfusions can help relieve your symptoms quickly by increasing the flow of oxygen to your organs and tissues.

Transfusions are usually done when hemoglobin levels fall below this 8.0 grams per deciliter (g/dl) from blood.

Erythropoietin stimulating agents

A healthcare professional can administer erythropoietin stimulating agents like a shot under the skin. They are synthetic versions of the hormone erythropoietin made by your kidneys. This hormone stimulates the production of red blood cells.

It usually takes time 4 to 6 weeks that these drugs have a significant effect, and about a third of people do not respond at all. Health professionals typically only recommend them for people receiving palliative care to relieve symptoms of anemia when cancer is not considered curable Research 2019.

Erythropoietin-stimulating agents may help increase your hemoglobin levels and reduce the need for blood transfusions, but they’re associated with serious health complications and an increased risk of death, the study found Research 2009.

Iron and other nutritional supplements

About 65 percent of your body’s iron is found in hemoglobin, a protein in your blood that carries oxygen to your body’s organs and tissues. Without enough iron, blood cells cannot carry oxygen to cells throughout the body. Low iron levels can also lead to anemia.

Your doctor may write you a prescription for an iron supplement or tell you to eat more iron-rich foods, such as:

  • Red meat
  • almonds
  • broccoli
  • fortified cereals and cereals
  • beans

Researchers are still studying the potential benefits of iron supplementation for people receiving erythropoietin-stimulating agents. Research from 2017 suggests it may help reduce the need for blood transfusions.

Your doctor may also prescribe folic acid (vitamin B9) or vitamin B12. These vitamins are also necessary to produce red blood cells.

Anemia caused by chemotherapy often goes away once treatment is over and your body has time to repair itself. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, low blood cell counts usually begin to recover 2 to 4 weeks after completion of chemotherapy.

In the meantime, here’s what you can do to manage your symptoms:

  • Rest and only do activities you can handle
  • Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water
  • a balanced diet with plenty of protein and iron-rich foods
  • Keep a journal of your symptoms and note when they occur
  • Keep your medical team informed of how you are feeling
  • Plan activities for when you have the most energy

According to the american cancer society, Anemia has been found to shorten the lifespan of people with cancer. It can delay cancer treatment, and sometimes the lack of oxygen in your cells can be life-threatening.

When your tissues aren’t getting enough oxygen, your heart has to work harder to move blood throughout your body. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Instituteincreased stress on your heart can make existing heart problems worse or lead to conditions such as:

Breathing problems from anemia can make everyday tasks like walking difficult and affect your quality of life.

Anemia is a common side effect of chemotherapy. The chemicals in chemotherapy drugs that destroy cancer cells can also damage healthy cells in your body. Anemia usually goes away once chemotherapy is stopped.

Your cancer team can help you manage the symptoms of anemia through medication, blood transfusions, and prescriptions for vitamins and minerals. It’s important to talk to your team about any new symptoms you develop so you can create the best possible treatment plan.

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