What is cancer-related anemia?

Cancer-Related Anemia

Cancer-related anemia: Overview

Anemia is a low level of red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Cancer or cancer treatment can cause anemia. When you don't have enough red blood cells, your body tissues are getting less oxygen. This can make you feel weak and tired.

How is iron used to treat cancer-related anemia?

Your body needs iron to make red blood cells. Epoetin and darbepoetin will not work as well if you do not get enough iron. For this reason, you may have iron that is given into a vein (I.V.). Or your doctor may tell you to take iron pills as well as certain vitamins that help the iron work better. Take these exactly as directed. Do not take more iron than your doctor tells you to. Too much iron can cause serious health problems.

You will have regular blood tests to make sure that your blood counts are getting better.

Iron pills and I.V. iron may cause belly pain, constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, fever, nausea, or vomiting. Let your doctor know if you have any of these symptoms.

Iron can change the color of your bowel movements to black or dark gray. This is harmless, but let your doctor know if you see this color change. Internal bleeding can also cause dark stools, so your doctor may want to test the stool to be sure that there is no blood in it.

What do you need to know about epoetin and darbepoetin for cancer-related anemia?

Your doctor may have prescribed epoetin or darbepoetin because these medicines may help your body make red blood cells. It usually takes several weeks before the medicine starts to work.

The medicine is given as an injection under the skin or into a vein (I.V.). If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you can, unless it is almost time for your next dose. If it is almost time for your next dose, then skip the missed dose and get back on your regular schedule.

Do not take two doses of the medicine at once. Do not freeze the medicine. Store it in the refrigerator. Do not shake the bottle before you prepare the shot.

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