Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer
(cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. It can be just one drug or several
drugs, taken from a choice of about 50 different drugs available.
Chemotherapy may be used alone
to treat cancer or together with surgery and/or radiotherapy.
Chemotherapy And Anemia
Anemia is a side effect experienced
by more than 60% of patients undergoing chemotherapy. The condition, a
low level of red blood cells, is characterized by feelings of weakness,
fatigue, dizziness, irritability, shortness of breath, and chills.
Why does it happen? Because chemotherapy
drugs can reduce the bone marrow's ability to make red blood cells. Red
blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of the body, providing the energy
needed for normal activities.
2. Chemotherapy not only destroys
red blood cells, it suppresses the bone marrow's ability to produce new
ones, causing anemia.
3. The hemoglobin in red blood
cells carries and releases oxygen throughout the body. Oxygen acts
like fuel for the body, providing
energy for muscles and organs to work.
4. Energy levels can plummet
due to lack of oxygen rich red blood cells.
When anticancer drugs keep blood
cells from getting the oxygen they need, the cells are unable to do their
job, and patients are more likely to feel the debilitating effects of fatigue.
To support normal movement in
anemic patients, the heart tries to make up for the shortage of oxygen
in the blood. It works harder to move the red blood cells more quickly
and deliver oxygen faster. This increased workload can put an additional
burden on the heart. Thus, you are most likely to feel the effects of anemia
during any kind of physical activity.
Your doctor will check your blood often during treatment. If your red count falls below normal levels, you may need a medication, PROCRIT® (Epoetin alfa), that works to increase
the number of red blood cells in your body. Therapy with PROCRIT can prevent
the need for a blood transfusion.
Have You Noticed A Change?
...in your energy level?
...in the things you are able
...in your strength during day
to day tasks?
If you're noticing that you have
less energy during everyday activities since you began chemotherapy, and
if you feel more tired than usual, you might have anemia. Here are the
general symptoms of anemia:
The most common is fatigue -
or lack of energy
Loss Of Sex Drive
Inability To Concentrate
Shortness Of Breath
What Is Anemia?
Anemia is the result of a lower
than normal level of red blood cells (RBCs). This can be caused by such
events as blood loss
(as in surgery), or by certain diseases, such as cancer
Because the hemoglobin in RBCs carries the oxygen vital to all
of your body, a decrease means your body works harder to get
through your body, which can place a strain on your heart.
The extra demands
placed on your body can cause excessive
tiredness, or fatigue.
The symptoms of anemia can become
so severe, that some people
can become bedridden. They can't work or even
perform basic daily activities, like food shopping or taking the dog for
If you're experiencing any of
these symptoms, you may have anemia without even knowing it. Take the Anemia
Self Assessment and discuss the results with your doctor.
How Does Chemotherapy Work?
According to the National Cancer
Institute, normal cells grow and die in a controlled way through a process
called apoptosis. Cancer cells keep dividing and forming more cells without
a control mechanism. Anticancer drugs destroy cancer cells by stopping
them from growing or multiplying at one or more points in their growth
cycle. Chemotherapy may consist of one or several cytotoxic drugs, depending
on the type of cancer being treated.
In addition to chemotherapy,
other methods are sometimes used to treat cancer. For example, your doctor
may recommend that you have surgery to remove a tumor or to relieve certain
symptoms that may be caused by your cancer. You also may receive radiation
therapy to treat your cancer orits symptoms. Sometimes your doctor may
suggest a combination of chemotherapy, surgery, and/or radiation therapy.
The goal of chemotherapy is to
shrink primary tumors, slow the tumor growth, and to kill cancer cells
that may have spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body from the
original tumor. Chemotherapy kills both cancer and healthy cells. The goal
is to minimize damage to normal cells and to enhance the cytotoxic effect
to cancer cells.
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