Anaemia associated with a haematological cancer
Many people with diseases of the blood will develop anaemia at some time during their illness. Anaemia is a reduction in red blood cells. This can be due to the cancer or its treatment, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy. If the level of red blood cells (haemoglobin) in your blood is low, you may become very tired and feel that you have no energy (lethargy). This is because the amount of oxygen being carried around your body is decreased. You may also become breathless.
If you have symptoms of anaemia, or are having treatment for cancer, you will have a blood test to check your haemoglobin level. This is known as a full blood count (FBC). If your haemoglobin level is low, your doctors may recommend that you have a blood transfusion. A blood transfusion means that blood is given by a drip (infusion) into one of your veins or via a Hickman line. The blood contains extra red cells, which will pick up the oxygen from your lungs and take it around the body to other tissues and organs. You will then have more energy and the breathlessness will be eased.
Why are blood transfusions given?
There are different treatments for anaemia depending on what is causing it. Blood transfusions are a simple way of correcting anaemia. The symptoms of anaemia are often relieved quickly and you should notice a benefit within 24 hours of having the transfusion. Transfusions may be used alone or together with other forms of treatment for anaemia. The beneficial effects of a blood transfusion can be temporary and some people may need further transfusions. Please ask a member of nursing or medical staff if you wish to discuss this issue further.