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Understanding Anemia (During Chemotherapy)

Chemotherapy can decrease the number of red blood cells in your body. When you have too few of these cells, it's called anemia. Anemia can have many symptoms. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any of the symptoms listed here. You may need treatment.

What is anemia?

Anemia is when your blood does not have enough red blood cells in it. Red blood cells make up 36% to 40% of normal blood. If you have anemia, your red blood cell count  (hematocrit) is below normal. The blood then can’t carry as much oxygen. As a result, your body can’t work as well.

Normal blood vessel with red blood cells and other blood components, compared to a blood vessel with low red blood cells due to anemia.
Anemic blood has fewer circulating red blood cells.

Symptoms to watch for

Follow up with your healthcare provider as advised. Tell your provider if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Ongoing tiredness (fatigue)

  • Feeling short of breath

  • Fast breathing

  • Fast heartbeat

  • Unable to get or keep an erection (impotence)

  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded

  • Always feeling cold

  • Pale-colored skin, nail beds, mouth, and gums

Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Turley Jr PA-C
Online Medical Reviewer: Todd Gersten MD
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2021
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