Anaemia

Anaemia

Anaemia is a decrease in the number of red blood cells. These cells carry oxygen throughout the body.  When you are anaemic you have less oxygen in your blood, and this can make you feel tired and unwell.

Anaemia can be caused by cancer, cancer treatments, bleeding or other health problems.

If you have palpitations, dizziness or shortness of breath you need medical attention.

Use the contact numbers you have been given. If you can’t get hold of anyone, go to your nearest hospital emergency department for assessment.

Be prepared

Know what to expect

Not all cancers or cancer treatments cause anaemia. Talk to your doctor or nurse about whether you are likely to become anaemic.

Symptoms of anaemia can include:

  • tiredness, weakness and fatigue
  • dizziness or headache
  • feeling cold
  • difficulty concentrating
  • pale complexion
  • shortness of breath
  • fast or irregular heart beat
  • chest pain.

Ask your doctor if there is anything you can do to prevent anaemia.

Start a symptom diary

Keeping track of your symptoms can help you and your cancer care team to manage them better.

Talk to your doctor or nurse to see if there is a diary they recommend, or use the example provided on this page.

Know who to contact if you have a problem

Ask your doctor or nurse:

  • when you should call for help or advice
  • who you should contact
  • how to contact them (including at night or weekends).

Keep this information where you can easily find it.

Checklists

Use our checklists to find helpful tips or questions to ask.

Managing symptoms

Managing anaemia

Tell your doctor or nurse if you get any symptoms that could be anaemia. Your doctor may order a blood test to check.

Ask your doctor, nurse or dietitian whether they have any advice on managing your anaemia.

If you are very anaemic you may need a blood transfusion. You and your doctor will decide if this is the right treatment for you. This can improve how you feel.

Severe anaemia

If you have palpitations, dizziness or shortness of breath you need medical attention.

Use the contact numbers you have been given. If you can’t get hold of anyone, go to your nearest hospital emergency department for assessment.

Treatment changes

Occasionally, if you have severe symptoms, your doctor may discuss delaying or changing your treatment. See our Treatment changes page for more information.

Checklists

Use our checklists to find helpful tips or questions to ask.

Where to get help

There are people you can talk to for more information or support.

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