A questionnaire-based survey on chemotherapy-induced anemia (CIA) in cancer patients was conducted between September and November 2010. The number of patients treated with chemotherapy, rate of blood transfusion, volume of blood transfused, severity of anemia, and factors affecting blood transfusion were analyzed according to the type of cancer, in an attempt to clarify the current status of CIA in Japan. During the survey period, among the eight types of cancer analyzed (breast, lung, stomach, colorectal, liver, gynecologic cancer, urologic cancer, and malignant lymphoma), chemotherapy was given to 5.4-13.6 % (mean 9.2 %) of patients, among whom 1.6-24.0 % (mean 7.5 %) required blood transfusion. The number of units of red blood cells transfused was 3.9-7.3 units (mean 5.9 units) per patient. According to a nationwide patient survey conducted by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, it is estimated that approximately 146,000 units of red blood cells, which account for 2.2 % of the annual total supply of red blood cell products, are transfused to cancer patients with CIA yearly. In addition, it is estimated that annually approximately 172,000 cancer patients with CIA, accounting for 40 % of patients receiving chemotherapy, have hemoglobin (Hb) levels below 10 g/dL. Possible factors affecting blood transfusion include a history of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, as well as the use of platinum agents. In patients who received red blood cell transfusions, the average Hb level prior to chemotherapy was 9.5 g/dL, and the average lowest Hb level after starting chemotherapy was 6.9 g/dL. By contrast, in patients who did not receive transfusion, these values were 11.6 and 10.4 g/dL, respectively. Furthermore, in all cancer types, almost no red blood cell transfusion was performed in patients with an Hb level of 8.0 g/dL or higher, but also many patients with an Hb level of 6.9 g/dL or lower did not receive red blood cell transfusions. There was no significant difference in the ratio of adverse events following blood transfusion in this survey compared with that in the nationwide survey. The present results demonstrate the strict restriction of red blood cell transfusion to cancer patients with CIA. Therefore, there is a need to consider the use of alternative therapies to allogeneic blood transfusion, such as erythropoiesis-stimulating agents, to increase Hb levels, and consequently improve the quality of life in cancer patients with CIA.
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