Anaemia happens when the number of healthy red blood cells in your body is too low. Red blood cells carry oxygen to all of the body’s tissues, so a low red blood cell count indicates that the amount of oxygen in the blood is lower than it should be.

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What is Anaemia?

Many of the chemotherapy medicines temporarily stop cells from dividing. This happens especially when the cells divide quickly, such as red blood cells.

Anaemia means that there are too few red blood cells and haemoglobin in the blood. Haemoglobin is the protein found in red blood cells that carries the oxygen around the body. Red blood cells are made in the bone marrow and they have a lifespan of about 120 days. They are usually broken down in the spleen, liver, and bone marrow.

Haemoglobin is important as it carries oxygen all around the body. When the red blood cells travel through the lungs the haemoglobin collects oxygen from the lungs. The red blood cells then travel around the bloodstream to the rest of the body. The haemoglobin inside the red blood cells then delivers oxygen to the organs.

If there are not enough red blood cells, then you also have less haemoglobin which means less oxygen can be carried to the organs in the body. Organs and tissues cannot function without oxygen.

Signs and symptoms of anaemia

  • Extreme tiredness and fatigue
  • Lacking energy and feeling weak
  • Shortness of breath when doing things
  • Increased heart rate and heart palpitations
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Pale skin. This might be noticeable on the insides of your eyelids.
  • Aching muscles or joints

Treatment and management or anaemia

  • Red blood cell transfusion
  • Erythropoietin (EPO) injections. An injection that tells the bone marrow to produce more red blood cells.
  • Iron supplements
  • Multivitamins
  • A diet high in protein, meat, and green leafy vegetables
  • Rest between activities
  • Plan activities and save energy
  • Ask others for help
  • Drink plenty of non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic drinks
For more info see
Blood Transfusions

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