Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Anemia, blood clots and bruising

Anemia
Anemia and chemotherapy
What can I do if I am anemic?
Blood clots and bruising
Blood clots, bruising and chemotherapy
How can I prevent problems if my platelet count is low?

Anemia

The side effects of chemotherapy depend on the type of chemotherapy and the amount given. Anticipating and managing side effects can help to minimize them and provide the best possible experience for the person receiving chemotherapy.

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Anemia and chemotherapy

As each person’s individual medical profile and diagnosis is different, so is his or her reaction to treatment. Side effects may be severe, mild or absent. Be sure to discuss with your cancer care team any/all possible side effects of treatment before the treatment begins.

Red blood cells carry oxygen to other cells throughout your body. Chemotherapy can damage your body’s ability to make RBCs, so body tissues do not get enough oxygen, a condition called anemia. People who have anemia may feel short of breath, very weak or tired, dizzy, faint, or may feel that their hearts are beating very fast. Consult your physician or nurse practitioner immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.

You will be given frequent tests to measure your hemoglobin and hematocrit during your therapy. If these measurements are low, you may be given a medication that can boost the growth of your red blood cells. If your blood is too low in red blood cells, you may need a blood transfusion or medication to raise the number of red blood cells in your body.

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What can I do if I am anemic?

Consider the following strategies to help manage anemia and fatigue:

  • Plan time to rest during the day.
  • Take short naps or breaks.
  • Limit your activities to those that are most important.
  • Try easier or shorter versions of activities you enjoy.
  • Take short walks or do light exercise, if possible.
  • Consider activities such as meditation, prayer, yoga, guided imagery or visualization.
  • Eat as well as you can in small amounts at a time. Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Join a support group. Your physician can help you find a support group in your area.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol.
  • Ask for help with daily responsibilities.
  • Talk to your nurses regarding ways to conserve your energy and reduce fatigue.
  • Report any changes in energy level to your cancer care team.

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Blood clots and bruising

The side effects of chemotherapy depend on the type of chemotherapy and the amount given. Anticipating and managing side effects can help to minimize them and provide the best possible experience for the person receiving chemotherapy.

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Blood clots, bruising and chemotherapy

Platelets are the blood cells that help stop bleeding by clotting your blood. Chemotherapy can affect the bone marrow, where platelets are produced. If your blood has a platelet deficiency, you may bleed or bruise more easily than usual, even without an injury.

Bleeding is considered a potentially life-threatening side effect. Consult your physician or nurse practitioner right away if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Unexplained or unexpected bruising.
  • Small, red spots under the skin.
  • Bleeding from your gums.
  • Bleeding from your nose.
  • Reddish or pinkish urine.
  • Black or bloody bowel movements.
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding.
  • Headaches or changes in vision.
  • A warm or hot area on an arm or leg.

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How can I prevent problems if my platelet count is low?

Consider the following tips to prevent a low platelet count:

  • Do not take any vitamins, herbal remedies or over-the-counter medications without first consulting your physician. Many of these products contain aspirin, which can affect platelet counts.
  • Consult your physician or nurse practitioner before drinking any alcoholic beverages.
  • Use a very soft toothbrush to clean your teeth.
  • Avoid forcefully blowing your nose.
  • Be careful not to cut or burn yourself. Use an electric shaver instead of a razor.
  • Avoid contact sports and other activities that might result in injury.
  • Consult your physician or nurse practitioner to determine if it is necessary for you to avoid sexual activity.

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