As you may already know, chemotherapy eliminates cancer cells. A lack of red blood cells can cause anemia. Anemia is one of the most common and most lasting side effects of chemotherapy. Anemia places extra demands on your body and can cause excessive tiredness or fatigue.
What can anemia lead to if untreated?
If left untreated, iron-deficiency anemia can cause serious health problems. Having too little oxygen in the body can damage organs. With anemia, the heart must work harder to make up for the lack of red blood cells or hemoglobin. This extra work can harm the heart.
The cancer you have may make you more prone to becoming anemic. The cancers most closely associated with anemia are: Cancers that involve the bone marrow. Blood cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma interfere with or destroy the marrow's ability to make healthy blood cells.
There are more than 400 types of Anemia currently known, and these are divided into three main groups according to their cause:
- Anemia caused by blood loss.
- Anemia caused by decreased production or production of faulty red blood cells.
- Anemia caused by the destruction of red blood cells.
People with anemia don't have enough functioning red blood cells (RBCs). These types of anemia are easily treatable. However, aplastic anemia starts with a bone marrow problem and it is not caused by iron deficiency. The condition is rare, but it can be fatal if left untreated.
Anemia in cancer patients is often exacerbated by myelosuppressive chemotherapy and may also be aggravated by radiation therapy. Cancer patients may experience such severe anemia that red blood cell (RBC) transfusions are required for symptomatic palliation.
Because some conditions coincide with the presence of the disease, the following may be signs of leukemia: Anemia: A low red blood cell count. Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body. This condition may contribute to weakness, fatigue or shortness of breath.
Cancers of the right colon can grow to large sizes before they cause any abdominal symptoms. Typically, right-sided cancers cause iron deficiency anemia due to the slow loss of blood over a long period of time. Iron deficiency anemia causes fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath.
Leukemia, a type of cancer found in your blood and bone marrow, is caused by the rapid production of abnormal white blood cells. The high number of abnormal white blood cells are not able to fight infection, and they impair the ability of the bone marrow to produce red blood cells and platelets.
People with mild or moderate iron-deficiency anemia may not have any signs or symptoms. More severe iron-deficiency anemia may cause fatigue or tiredness, shortness of breath, or chest pain. Your body needs iron to make healthy red blood cells.
If left untreated, iron-deficiency anemia can cause serious health problems. Having too little oxygen in the body can damage organs. With anemia, the heart must work harder to make up for the lack of red blood cells or hemoglobin.
March 26, 2012 — Red blood cell (RBC) transfusions in most hospitalized patients should be performed based on "restrictive," rather than "liberal," hemoglobin levels (7 - 8 g/dL), according to new clinical guidelines from the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB).
Blood or red cell loss that occurs suddenly or over time and diseases and conditions that decrease red blood cell production in the bone marrow will result in a low RBC count. Some causes of a low RBC count (anemia) include: Trauma. Chronic inflammatory disease or condition.
The symptoms of moderate to severe iron deficiency anemia include:
- general fatigue.
- pale skin.
- shortness of breath.
- strange cravings to eat items that aren't food, such as dirt, ice, or clay.
- a tingling or crawling feeling in the legs.
- tongue swelling or soreness.
Chemotherapy (chemo) destroys cells that grow rapidly, including those in the bone marrow that produce platelets. A low platelet count, also known as thrombocytopenia, is a common chemo side effect. When you get cut or bruised, platelets form plugs in the blood vessels to stop the bleeding.
A low hemoglobin count is a commonly seen blood test result. Hemoglobin (Hb or Hgb) is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. If it gets more severe and causes symptoms, your low hemoglobin count may indicate you have anemia.
If the number of RBCs is lower than normal, it may be caused by: anemia. bone marrow failure. erythropoietin deficiency, which is the primary cause of anemia in patients with chronic kidney disease. hemolysis, or RBC destruction caused by transfusions and blood vessel injury.
When you're anemic your heart must pump more blood to compensate for the lack of oxygen in the blood. This can lead to an enlarged heart or heart failure. Death. Some inherited anemias, such as sickle cell anemia, can be serious and lead to life-threatening complications.
increasing the intake of iron-rich foods (eggs, spinach, artichokes, beans, lean meats, and seafood) and foods rich in cofactors (such as vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin C) important for maintaining normal hemoglobin levels. Such foods include fish, vegetables, nuts, cereals, peas, and citrus fruits.
Anemia due to iron deficiency or blood loss can also be corrected (cured) with a blood transfusion. Nutritional deficiencies such as B12 or folate are also curable causes of anemia. Eating a healthy diet, and possibly taking supplements, will allow the body to naturally build red blood cells back up.
This type of anemia is called “pernicious” because it was once considered a deadly disease. This was due to the lack of available treatment. Today, though, the disease is relatively easy to treat with B-12 injections or supplements. However, if left untreated, vitamin B-12 deficiency can lead to severe complications.