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Aplastic Anemia

Learn about what Baptist Cancer Center offers you in terms of leading-edge aplastic anemia treatments.

Aplastic Anemia Explained

Aplastic anemia, or bone marrow aplasia, forms when the body does not produce enough new blood cells. People with aplastic anemia experience a higher risk of infection and uncontrolled bleeding, and they often feel fatigued. Though rare, aplastic anemia may occur suddenly or develop slowly and worsen over time. 

While aplastic anemia is not technically a cancer, the therapies used to treat it are similar to cancer treatments for blood-forming cancers such as lymphomas and leukemias. According to the Aplastic Anemia and MDS International Foundation, 75 percent of aplastic anemia cases are idiopathic, or lacking a known cause.

Aplastic Anemia Treatment Options

Baptist Cancer Center collaborates closely with the Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center to offer a comprehensive treatment program for blood cancer, including chemotherapy, inpatient and outpatient treatment centers, blood and stem cell collection centers, and an innovative stem cell transplant center.

The Different Types of Aplastic Anemia

Aplastic anemia can be acquired (you develop the condition) or inherited (you are born with the condition).

Acquired Aplastic Anemia

Acquired aplastic anemia is common in adults. Possible causes for the condition include immune system triggers such as HIV, toxic chemicals, certain medications, and chemotherapy or radiation for cancer treatment.

Inherited Aplastic Anemia

Inherited aplastic anemia is most common in young adults and children. It is caused by gene defects and suggests a higher likelihood of leukemia and other cancers.

Other Blood Cancers

In addition to aplastic anemia, other common types of blood cancers include:

Learn the Symptoms and Causes

Recognizing the signs of aplastic anemia allows for timely intervention, potentially increasing the chances of successful treatment and improving your quality of life.

What are the causes and risk factors of aplastic anemia?

In many people who have aplastic anemia, the cause is unknown. It develops when bone marrow is damaged and the production of new blood cells is reduced or halted. Bone marrow is a red, spongy material inside your bones that produces stem cells, which yield red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. In aplastic anemia, bone marrow is empty (aplastic) or contains very few blood cells (hypoplastic).

  • Risk factors for aplastic anemia may include:
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals
  • Pregnancy
  • Radiation and chemotherapy treatments
  • Viral infection
  • Use of certain drugs
  • Unknown factors

What are common signs and symptoms of aplastic anemia?

Aplastic anemia may be short term or chronic. Symptoms of aplastic anemia can include:

  • Dizziness
  • Frequent or prolonged infections
  • Headache
  • Nosebleeds and bleeding gums
  • Pale skin
  • Prolonged bleeding from cuts
  • Rapid or irregular heart rate
  • Shortness of breath with exertion
  • Skin rash
  • Unexplained or easy bruising

Your doctor may suspect aplastic anemia if the quantity of three blood cell types is much lower than normal. If you experience these symptoms, your doctor may order a complete blood count test or perform a biopsy of your bone marrow to check for aplastic anemia.

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Related Information

Connect With a Patient Navigator

As a patient at Baptist Cancer Center, you will have access to a dedicated patient navigator who will act as your advocate and liaison between you and your health care teams. Our patient navigators are available at every step to schedule appointments, answer questions, explain the treatment process, and provide resources, education and support when you and your family need it.