Chemotherapy And Anemia

What to do if chemotherapy makes your loved one anemic.

Chemotherapy can reduce the bone marrow’s ability to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen to all parts of your body. When there are too few red blood cells, body tissues do not get enough oxygen to do their work. This condition is called anemia. Anemia can make you feel short of breath, very weak, and tired. Call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Fatigue (feeling very weak and tired).
  • Dizziness or feeling faint.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Feeling as if your heart is “pounding” or beating very fast.

Your doctor will check your blood cell count often during your treatment. She or he may also prescribe a medicine that can boost the growth of your red blood cells. Discuss this with your doctor if you become anemic often. If your red count falls too low, you may need a blood transfusion or a medicine called erythropoietin to raise the number of red blood cells in your body.

Things you can do if you are anemic:

  • Get plenty of rest. Sleep more at night and take naps during the day if you can.
  • Limit your activities. Do only the things that are essential or most important to you.
  • Ask for help when you need it. Ask family and friends to pitch in with things like child care, shopping, housework, or driving.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • When sitting, get up slowly. When lying down, sit first and then stand. This will help prevent dizziness.

© Copyright FamilyCare America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Reprinted from Chemotherapy and You: A Guide to Self-Help During Cancer Treatment, NIH Publication #99-1136, developedby the United States National Institutes of Health National Cancer Institute, June 1999.

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