The Link Between Cancer and Anemia

Cancer is a dreadful illness that impacts the lives of millions of people all over the globe. Anemia, caused by insufficient red blood cells, is a side effect of cancer that not many people know about. Anemia is a common problem for people with cancer, which can hurt their health and well-being. This article will talk about how cancer can cause anemia and how it can be diagnosed and treated.

Understanding Anemia

Anemia is when there aren't enough red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body. Some of the most common types of anemia are iron deficiency anemia, vitamin deficiency anemia, and anemia caused by long-term illness.

Iron is needed to make red blood cells so insufficient iron can cause anemia. Vitamin deficiency anemia is caused by inadequate B12 and folate, which are used to make red blood cells. Anemia of chronic disease is common in people with cancer, autoimmune diseases, and long-term infections. This is because cancer, autoimmune diseases, and long-term infections all cause chronic inflammation.

Checking for low levels of red blood cells, hemoglobin, and hematocrit in the blood is one way to determine if someone has anemia. Depending on what caused the anemia, it may be treated with blood transfusions, drugs that help make more red blood cells, or iron or vitamin supplements.

Cancer-related Anemia

Up to 60% of people with cancer may get anemia at some point while they are being treated. Anemia caused by cancer can be caused by the disease itself, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.

The bone marrow, which makes red blood cells, could be hurt by radiation and chemotherapy. If this kind of injury stops red blood cells from being made, it could lead to anemia. Anemia can also be caused by chemicals produced by cancer that contain red blood cells from making new cells or cause bleeding.

Anemia caused by cancer treatment can be dreadful for a patient's living chances and quality of life. Symptoms of anemia, such as being tired, weak, and short of breath, can make it hard for a person to go about their daily lives and get through cancer treatment.

Causes of Cancer-related Anemia

Several things cause anemia in cancer patients. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may slow down the production of red blood cells, which is one reason why. Another way is that the body gets rid of more red blood cells than it should. This can be a direct result of cancer or a side effect of treatment for cancer.

Inflammation and cytokines can also affect anemia caused by cancer. When pro-inflammatory cytokines stop healthy red blood cells from dividing and staying alive, this can lead to anemia. Cancer cells release chemicals that cause more inflammatory cytokines to be made. This makes anemia worse.

Diagnosis and treatment of Cancer-related Anemia

Blood tests can check the levels of red blood cells, hemoglobin, and hematocrit to see if the anemia is caused by cancer. Women with a hemoglobin level below 12 g/dL and men with below 13 g/dL are thought to have anemia.

Cancer can cause different levels and types of anemia, and there are many ways to treat them. For severe anemia, blood transfusions and erythropoietin-stimulating drugs may be needed. For milder cases, iron and vitamin supplements may be enough (ESAs). Red blood cell production stimulants, also called ESAs, are used to treat anemia caused by chemotherapy and radiation used to treat cancer.

Anemia can also be treated by taking iron supplements. Iron supplements, on the other hand, are another way to treat anemia. Iron supplements can sometimes be used to treat anemia caused by not getting enough iron. Iron supplements might not help if the anemia is caused by something other than a lack of iron.

In extreme cases of anemia, another treatment option is to have a blood transfusion. Red blood cells are given from one person to another during a blood transfusion. With a blood transfusion, the symptoms of anemia may go away quickly, but there are risks, such as transfusion reactions and infections.

ESAs can also be used to treat anemia brought on by chemotherapy. ESAs are drugs that make more red blood cells (creating new RBCs). But there are risks to ESAs, like a higher chance of death and blood clots.

Managing cancer-related anemia

Anemia caused by treatment for cancer can sometimes only be fixed by working as a team. Oncologists, hematologists, and experts in supportive care work together to help treat anemia better and improve patient outcomes and quality of life.

The underlying cause of anemia must be treated along with the condition's symptoms, such as tiredness and weakness. Patients may improve their quality of life if they get help with diet, exercise, and pain.


Anemia is a common side effect of cancer treatment that can significantly affect the patient's health and well-being. Anemia caused by cancer can be managed and treated more effectively if you know how it works and what causes it. With a team effort, patients may have better outcomes, and their anemia symptoms may be relieved.

Updated on: 11-Apr-2023


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