Cancer can result in the need for a transfusion for a number of reasons including surgery, side effects of chemotherapy and as a result of the cancer itself.

Blood cancers, such as leukaemia and lymphoma have a significant effect on your white cell, red cell and platelet counts. This can result in life threatening infections, anaemia and bleeding. Transfusion of red cells, platelets and plasma products may be required to get your levels to a safer range. This will help you feel better and enable you to undergo treatment.

Depending on the type, size, location and degree of spread, cancer treatment may include:

  • surgically removing the abnormal cells and surrounding tissue
  • radiotherapy, which uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells or stop them growing
  • medications including chemotherapy to kill or slow the rate of cancer cell growth.

Blood loss during surgery may result in the need for a transfusion. Chemotherapy drugs affect fast-dividing cancerous cells but can’t differentiate between good and bad cells. This means that bone marrow, which is like a factory for blood cell production, is also affected by chemotherapy due to its fast dividing cells. As a result, patients receiving chemotherapy treatment have decreased ability to produce new blood cells and are not able to replace blood cells that have been destroyed. To compensate for this side effect of chemotherapy transfusion of red cells and or platelets may be needed. Blood transfusions help manage signs and symptoms experienced due to low blood cell counts and enable you to continue your cancer treatments.