Anemia Information Center
Anemia is a common problem for cancer patients. Anemia is associated with a reduced quality of life, causes unwanted symptoms, and can reduce the effectiveness of treatment. Symptoms of anemia include fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, and difficulty staying warm. Anemia occurs either as a direct result of the cancer or as a side effect of cancer treatment. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and blood loss during surgery are all common causes of anemia in cancer patients. Anemia is an inadequate supply of red blood cells. Red blood cells contain the protein hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to all parts of the body. Low levels of red blood cells, and thus hemoglobin, cause a reduction in the amount of oxygen that can be carried to the body. Anemia can be detected by a simple test known as a CBC (complete blood count). Treatment of anemia may involve blood transfusions or the use of drugs known as erythropoiesis-stimulating agents. Effective management of anemia is important for several reasons: the symptoms of anemia can have a profound impact on quality of life; anemia can cause or worsen other health conditions; and anemia can interfere with cancer treatment.