Anaemia

Chemotherapy can cause anaemia by interfering with the body’s natural process of creating new blood cells within bone marrow.

What is anaemia?

Anaemia is defined as a reduced number of red blood cells in your body or a low haemoglobin level. Red blood cells contain haemoglobin, which is responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body.

Chemotherapy can cause anaemia by interfering with the body’s natural process of creating new blood cells within bone marrow.

Signs and symptoms of anaemia

If you’re experiencing anaemia, you may have following symptoms including:

Fatigue and tiredness

Dizziness

Irregular or rapid heart rate

Headaches

Pains in your chest

Cold hands or feet

Difficulty catching your breath

Pale skin

How can anaemia be prevented/managed?

  • You will be assessed for any other possible causes which may increase your risk of anaemia
  • Your doctor will carefully monitor your red blood cell count with blood tests while you are having treatments which may put you at risk of anaemia
  • Your treatment dose may need to be adjusted if you are at risk of or become anaemic
  • Other options your health professional may discuss with you include iron supplementation and erythropoietic therapy (hormone to stimulate blood cell production)
  • Moderate to severe anaemia may require a blood transfusion. You can get further information from your care team or access the Australian Red Cross Blood Service factsheet “What Happens if I need a Blood Transfusion?”

When should I seek help from a health professional?

You should always report symptoms such as fatigue, breathlessness, dizziness and heart palpitations (feeling your heart beating rapidly).

You should go to the nearest hospital emergency department or call an ambulance if you develop shortness of breath and/or chest pain.

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