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 is stopping your body from making enough red blood cells, which means that your body tissues are getting less oxygen. This can make you feel weak and tired.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Your doctor may have prescribed a transfusion of packed red blood cells. These are red blood cells that have been taken from blood donated by someone else. Getting extra red blood cells can help your blood carry more oxygen to the tissues of your body. This can help you feel stronger.
Your health care team will make sure that the packed red blood cells, also called PRBCs, are the right match for your blood type.
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. 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.
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, 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 may cause heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, or cramps. Let your doctor know if you have any of these symptoms.
Iron pills can change the colour of your bowel movements to black or dark grey. This is harmless, but let your doctor know if you see this colour 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.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Epoetin and darbepoetin can cause side effects. Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.
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Current as of: November 9, 2016
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Jimmy Ruiz, MD - Hematology, Oncology
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