Aplastic Anemia

Treating a condition that can be caused by radiation and chemotherapy.

Aplastic anemia is not cancer. But it can be caused by common cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy. Aplastic anemia causes your bone marrow to stop making either one, two, or all three types of new blood cells: red cells, white cells, and platelets.

This condition can put you at higher risk of infection, uncontrolled bleeding, and cardiac problems such as arrhythmias, heart failure, and an enlarged heart.

If you are diagnosed with aplastic anemia, our hematologists will walk you through the treatment options.

Types of aplastic anemia

There are two types of aplastic anemia:

  • Acquired aplastic anemia: This type can be triggered by a virus, medication, toxic chemicals, or cancer treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy.
  • Inherited aplastic anemia: This is caused by a genetic defect, and it can increase a person’s risk of developing leukemia and other cancers.

Risk factors for aplastic anemia

Factors that may increase your risk for aplastic anemia include:

  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals
  • Pregnancy, although this is rare
  • Use of some prescriptions drugs for conditions such as bacterial infections and rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms of aplastic anemia

Symptoms depend on which type of blood cells you are low on. Common symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unexplained bruising

How we treat aplastic anemia

Treatment for aplastic anemia depends on its severity. Mild cases may not require treatment, only close observation to ensure it doesn’t progress. If you’re diagnosed with aplastic anemia during cancer treatment, the condition may go away after treatment ends.

For more serious cases, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following:

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If this is an emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency department.

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