Anemia and Cancer Treatment
Anemia is a condition that can make you feel very tired, short of breath, and lightheaded. Other signs of anemia may include feeling dizzy or faint, headaches, a fast heartbeat, and/or pale skin.
Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, as well as cancers that affect the bone marrow, can cause anemia. When you are anemic, your body does not have enough red blood cells. Red blood cells are the cells that that carry oxygen from the lungs throughout your body to help it work properly. You will have blood tests to check for anemia. Treatment for anemia is also based on your symptoms and on what is causing the anemia.
Ways to Manage Anemia
Here are some steps you can take if you have fatigue caused by anemia:
- Save your energy and ask for help. Choose the most important things to do each day. When people offer to help, let them do so. They can take you to the doctor, make meals, or do other things you are too tired to do.
- Balance rest with activity. Take short naps during the day, but keep in mind that too much bed rest can make you feel weak. You may feel better if you take short walks or exercise a little every day.
- Eat and drink well. Talk with your doctor, nurse, or a registered dietitian to learn what foods and drinks are best for you. You may need to eat foods that are high in protein or iron.
Talking With Your Health Care Team about Anemia
Prepare for your visit by making a list of questions to ask. Consider adding these questions to your list:
- What is causing the anemia?
- What problems should I call you about?
- What steps can I take to feel better?
- Would medicine, iron pills, a blood transfusion, or other treatments help me?
- Would you give me the name of a registered dietitian who could also give me advice?
Listen to tips on how to manage fatigue from cancer treatments such as radiation therapy.
(Type: MP3 | Time: 2:50 | Size: 2.7MB)
Radiation Therapy Audio Transcript
What To Do When You Feel Weak, Tired, or Worn Out (Fatigue)
What to do when you feel very tired during radiation therapy.
Feeling weak, tired, or worn out? This is called fatigue. Most people getting radiation therapy feel fatigued.
It does not mean that your cancer is getting worse.
It does not mean that the treatment is not working.
In fact, it is normal to feel very tired during this time.
Listen to some tips that have helped others like you who are receiving radiation therapy. Try some of them to have more energy.
Know your limits.
My doctor said taking care of myself should be my top priority right now. I had to make choices about how much I could handle each day. For example, if my son had a baseball game at night, I would skip running errands that day so I would have enough energy to see him play.
Plan when and if you'll work.
Although I felt pretty tired, I still needed to go to work. I was able to talk with my boss, and we planned a work schedule around my treatments. A friend in my support group didn't have the energy to keep working. He was able to take some medical leave during his treatment. Plan a work schedule that is right for you.
Be active during the day.
I asked my doctor what I could do to stop feeling so tired and worn out. She told me that getting a little exercise, for even a short amount of time every day, could actually give me more energy. I took her advice and found that I felt better when I stayed active. I started with short walks, and before I knew it, I was walking 45 minutes a day. I was surprised to learn how much a little exercise helped.
Keep naps short.
I take a nap each day, but my doctor told me to keep naps short – less than 1 hour at a time. This is long enough for me to feel rested, but I am still able to sleep 8 hours each night.
Let's review some tips that can help you feel less tired.
First, slow down – try to do fewer things. Make choices about how much you can handle each day.
Next, decide if you can work. If you are able to work, plan a work schedule around your treatments.
Try to be active each day. Take a short walk. Staying active will give you more energy.
And take short naps – no longer than 1 hour at a time.
Lastly, talk with your doctor or nurse if you still feel very tired after trying these tips. They may have other suggestions or treatments that can help.