Chemotherapy, a medication used to attack and kill malignant cancer cells, is an effective method to treat cancer. However, these drugs are very powerful and usually cause some undesirable side effects, including nausea, vomiting, hair loss, fatigue, low blood counts, and sore throat & mouth. These side effects do not occur all at once and can appear in varying degrees at different times within the treatment cycles. Here is some helpful information regarding anemia following your chemotherapy treatment at Cancer Care Northwest.
At the same time chemotherapy drugs are fighting cancer cells, they can destroy normal cells as well. Red blood cells (RBC’s) carry oxygen in the blood to all parts of your body. Inside the red blood cell is a protein called hemoglobin. If you have a low number of total red blood cells or a low hemoglobin count, you may experience a condition called anemia. Anemia can make you tired, short of breath, or dizzy. It can also make your head and heart pound, or cause ringing in your ears. If anemia becomes severe, you will probably need a blood transfusion.
The most common symptom of anemia is fatigue, but there are other symptoms that you may experience. If you have a history of anemia in your family, make sure your doctor knows this. Other symptoms include:
Anemia often makes you feel very tired, but sometimes fatigue can be caused from stress associated with your diagnosis or treatment. At any rate, when you feel weary, weak, or exhausted, your body is telling you it needs to rest.
If symptoms of anemia become severe enough to prevent you from normal activity, your doctor will likely recommend a transfusion of packed red blood cells. A transfusion will correct your anemia immediately, but if you have reservations about receiving a blood transfusion, you should speak to your doctor.
In some cases, your physician may prescribe colony stimulating factors (CSF’s) for anemia. CSF’s will increase the number of red blood cells, but it is usually two to four weeks before the benefits of CSF’s are experienced with anemia.
Your CCNW doctor or nurse can give you more ideas about relief of anemic symptoms, so be sure to ask if you have any questions or concerns. Side effects from your cancer treatment can be successfully managed with open communication between you and your CCNW oncologist. Because you and CCNW are a team — we are here for you and want to help in any way we can.