By damaging malignant cells, chemotherapy also attacks healthy red blood cells, thus preventing the body to normally produce red blood cells; this causes anemia in some patients. It is estimated that 70% of cancer patients experience anemia during the course of their chemo treatments. Tiredness and fatigue are often the first indication of anemia during chemotherapy. Other common signs indicating anemia associated with chemotherapy include:

  • Paleness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Lack of energy
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Shortness of breath.

Through the bone marrow, the body naturally produces blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. As cancer cells, these blood cells divide quickly, making them a target for chemo drugs.  Without a healthy diet and proper treatment, the chemotherapy will eventually lead to low blood counts. This can cause not only anemia but also low leukocyte (low white blood cell count), the natural disease-fighting cells in your body. It is important to treat the anemia to stop these symptoms above and prevent complications.

Red Blood Cell Count  (Anemia)

Red blood cells play major role in the entire organism. They carry oxygen and nutrients throughout the body to help you stay healthy and feel well.  During the course of the treatment, your doctor will perform blood test to monitor your blood cells count. A CBC (complete blood count) is often the type of blood test used to check blood count.  An RBCcount is used to determine how many red blood cells(RBCs) you have. Although normal values can vary one laboratory to another, here are the normal ranges usually looked for in an adult:

Normal Values  Female  Male 
RBC 4.2 – 5.4 M/ul 4.5 – 6.0 M/ul
Hemoglobin (HgB) 12 – 16 g/dL 14 – 18 g/dL
Hematocrit (Hct) 37 – 47% 40 – 52%

What You Can Do? 

Here are some steps you can take to treat or prevent chemotherapy related anemia:

  • Sleep for about 7 hours a night
  • Rest between activities; you may need to take naps
  • Use your energy only when it’s necessary
  • Eat a diet with adequate protein and vitamins
  • Drink plenty of non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic fluids
  • Drink plenty of cruciferous juice – you may need a juicer to prepare the juice
  • Drink plenty of freshly homemade fruit juice – you may also need a juicer to prepare the juice

If the above steps are not enough, your doctor will prescribe appropriate medications to increase your red blood cell count. Common medications recommended for chemotherapy-related anemia include:

  • Darbepoetin (Aranesp®)
  • Epoetin alfa (PROCRIT®)
  • Iron supplement
  • Multivitamin contain iron
  • Red blood cell transfusion

When to Call Your Doctor? 

See your doctor or health care provider if you experience any of the following:

  • Feeling of dizziness or lightheaded
  • Abnormal heart beats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Severe paleness of the face
  • Severe weakness



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