Red cell transfusions in cancer patients

A low haemoglobin in a patient with cancer is also common and requires careful diagnostic evaluation. Elimination of obvious causes such as bleeding from a gastrointestinal malignancy are important before repeated red cell transfusions are given. A one-unit blood transfusion should raise the haemoglobin by approximately 1 g/dl. Transfusion may reduce the platelet count, so platelet transfusion may be required before or after blood transfusion.

Red cell transfusion should be based on clinical criteria rather than absolute trigger values. The use of erythropoietin to maintain haemoglobin values in patients with cancer, on or off treatment, is unproven.

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