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Semin Oncol. 2001 Apr;28(2 Suppl 8):7-14.

Symptomatology of anemia.

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Department of Medicine and Medical Oncology, Wilhelminenspital Vienna, Austria.


The symptoms and severity of anemia depend on various factors, including the degree of anemia, the rapidity of its onset, and the age and physiologic status of the patient. Although the human body tries to counterbalance the effects of anemia by various mechanisms, almost every organ system of the human body is eventually affected. The symptoms experienced by patients vary from cold skin, dizziness, and palpitations to pulmonary edema, heart failure, depression, and severe impairment of cognitive function. Anemia substantially impacts patients' quality of life, a fact that has been shown in several clinical trials in patients with renal disease as well as in patients suffering from various malignancies undergoing chemotherapy. These studies evaluated the administration of recombinant human erythropoietin (r-HuEPO, epoetin alfa) to anemic patients, and it was shown that raising hemoglobin levels with epoetin alfa ameliorated the symptoms of anemia and significantly improved the functional status and overall quality of life in cancer patients. Furthermore, preliminary data indicate that the correction of anemia in cancer patients may in addition improve treatment efficacy and possibly overall survival.

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