You can start by having a chat with your doctor about possible options.
It might be that having a transfusion is the best treatment, but there are times when you (and your doctor) can work together to minimise the need for one.
Your health care team will use a strategy called patient blood management (PBM).
Patient blood management is a coordinated healthcare approach to patient care that focuses on strategies to reduce or avoid the need for a transfusion where possible.
One example of how this can work is giving you iron supplements to treat low iron levels.
What to ask
Before treatment for cancer, an operation or pregnancy, you can ask your doctor:
- Are my haemoglobin levels normal?
- Do I have anaemia or low iron levels (which can be checked with a blood test)?
- If so, can it be treated with iron supplements?
- Ask about foods that can help increase iron levels and whether dietary changes alone would help. Ongoing iron from your diet is essential to help your body make new red blood cells to carry oxygen.
- Can I keep taking my medications (including any herbal or vitamin supplements)? Some can make your blood thinner, making you more likely to bleed during an operation or delivery, which increases the chance of transfusion.
- What could happen if I or a member of my family has had bleeding problems?
- Am I at risk of blood loss that may require a transfusion? How will that risk be minimised?
What does my surgical team do?
During an operation, the surgical team can minimise your need for a transfusion by:
- Using techniques and instruments that minimise blood loss.
- Maintaining your blood pressure.
- Keeping your body temperature within normal ranges.
- Using IV fluids to maintain your blood volume.
- Using a technique known as cell salvage if there’s a high risk of you losing a large amount of blood during your operation. A special machine recovers your lost blood and returns it to you during or directly after the operation.
What happens after treatment?
After treatment for cancer, an operation or having a baby, your blood levels may be low. Your body will naturally make more blood cells while you recover. Your doctor will monitor you in the days after to see if you need treatment.
By using patient blood management to avoid a transfusion, you can:
- reduce your risk of complications with your medical or surgical procedure
- remove the risk of having the wrong blood transfused to you
- possibly recover from your procedure quicker
- possibly decrease the amount of time you spend in the hospital
- reduce the risk of transfusion-transmitted infections such as HIV and Hepatitis B and C.