Iron Deficiency In People With Cancer

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An iron deficiency is one of the most common complications in cancer patients, affecting 30-90%, depending on the type of cancer.

An iron deficiency means not enough oxygen is being carried around the body by red blood cells and can make you feel very unwell. It’s important to be aware of what causes an iron deficiency in cancer patients, what types of cancer can make you more prone, and what can be done about it so that you can make the best decision about your treatment.

 What Causes An Iron Deficiency?

An iron deficiency is caused by either losing blood quicker than it can be replaced or by the bone marrow producing inefficient red cells, either due to disease of the bone marrow or a lack of vitamins and minerals in the body that allow the body to manufacture blood cells. Common symptoms of an iron deficiency are dizziness, fatigue, pale skin and trouble breathing. These symptoms become more apparent as the deficiency worsens. An iron deficiency is more commonly linked to certain types of cancers, dependent on how the cancer affects the body.

 Types Of Cancer More Often Linked

Tumors in the digestive system are more likely to cause an iron deficiency because they can slowly bleed, often undetected. The loss of blood causes the deficiency. This can happen with tumors located in other parts of the body too, but is less common. Anemia caused by an iron deficiency is often the sole symptom of colon, stomach or gullet cancers and can help to get a diagnosis to start treating the cancer. Lung cancer carries a 51% risk of an iron deficiency, but it less common in bladder cancer patients. Regardless of the type of cancer, if you have it alongside an iron deficiency it is usually more difficult to treat as the body will be weaker and less tolerant of treatments like chemotherapy.

Treatments for Iron Deficiency

Cancer can cause the patient to have trouble swallowing or they can lack appetite, which can add to the chances of an iron deficiency, so it is often recommended that oral supplements are taken. Sometimes the patient won’t be able to absorb or tolerate them, often due to problems with the digestive system. In these patients, intravenous iron supplements are the next step, like Injectafer. Unfortunately, Injectafer has been linked to causing more problems in some patients, namely severe hypophosphatemia (HPP).

HPP causes phosphate blood levels to become dangerously low, leading to seizures, respiratory problems, muscle wastage and an increased chance of mortality. Many doctors don’t know about these risks as the manufacturer hasn’t been transparent with them, so doctors may recommend this treatment for you. This is why it’s important for you to be educated about treatments so that you can make an informed decision. Injectafer may work in treating your symptoms, but it could be life-threatening for a similar patient.

Cancer can be overwhelming. You can be asked a thousand questions about how you want your treatment to proceed, without really understanding the options or risks. The more you know about your type of cancer and the risks of associated illnesses means you can make better decisions revolving around what you want your treatment to be.

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