Anemia, a common condition among cancer patients, is an inadequate supply of red blood cells that results in a decrease in the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and blood loss during surgery are all common causes of anemia in cancer patients. Anemia is an important consideration because it may cause unwanted symptoms, such as fatigue, tiredness, or shortness of breath and may exacerbate or cause other medical problems, such as a heart condition. Furthermore, severe anemia may cause a delay in cancer treatment. If you do experience anemia during cancer treatment, there are several steps you can take to control symptoms and lessen their impact on your treatment schedule and quality of life.
The following tips will help you handle the effects of anemia:
- If you experience any symptoms of anemia (such as fatigue, tiredness, or shortness of breath), tell your healthcare team immediately.
- Eat a well balanced diet and drink plenty of fluids.
- Get adequate rest.
- Prioritize your activities so that you can participate in those that are most important and require more energy when you are feeling your best. Low-priority activities can be put off until you feel stronger.
- Let friends and family help you with errands and regular chores so that you can conserve your energy.
- To prevent dizziness, get up slowly from a sitting position; when you are lying down, sit up slowly before standing.
- Consult your doctor about the risks and benefits of treatment for anemia with erythropoietin, a blood cell growth factor that increases red blood cell production. Commercially available forms of erythropoietin include epoetin alfa (Epogen® or Procrit®) and darbepoetin alfa (Aranesp®), a newer and longer acting form of erythropoietin.