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Blood Transfusion for Prostate Cancer

What to expect during a blood transfusion...

If you are reading this the chances are good that either you or someone you care about has metastatic prostate cancer. This means that the prostate cancer has spread to the bones.

You are losing valuable hemoglobin that your body needs to function correctly. Your healthy red blood cells are low. You will need to have your hemoglobin replaced with a blood transfusion.

People who have anemia also need to have blood transfusions. You are now considered anemic. It's normal to feel frightened when you first hear that this treatment is needed, but it's not as drastic as it sounds. Many prostate cancer patients consider it the "Super Soldier Serum," "Breakfast of Champions" or "Power Juice."

Dave prefers to refer to his Taxotere Chemo treatments as "Power Juice." His blood transfusions are "Super Soldier Serum."

Your hemoglobin level is checked via a CBC (complete blood count) which takes only minutes to do. A small amount of blood is withdrawn from a vein and is tested. Your count reveals what your hemoglobin (Hgb) is. The normal range for a male is 13.5 to 18 gm/dl.

Red blood cells

Signs and symptoms of low hemoglobin:

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • A feeling of weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cognitive problems
  • Pain in the chest
  • Pale skin
  • Fast/Irregular heartbeat
  • Dizziness

Not everyone exhibits signs and symptoms. It all depends on your overall health (minus the prostate cancer). It also depends on how active you are. People all react differently. No two patients are the same.

If you have been following my husband's story on his Prostate Cancer Journey, you would know that his hemoglobin dropped to 7.0, and he had no symptoms at all. That's dangerously low. If we weren't diligent on keeping track of his blood counts the worse could have happened. We go for weekly CBC tests. Blood transfusions average once a month. Again I emphasize that all patients are different. This is our journey. Your journey is your unique story.

As an advocate for prostate cancer I've often been asked what to expect during a blood transfusion. How do you know you need one? What happens before? After? This is my first hand knowledge of what I've witnessed. I offer answers that our oncologist has given us. My husband offers his input also.

Captain America (Dave) getting pumped up for his "Super Soldier Serum" aka Blood Transfusion.

Captain America (Dave) getting pumped up for his "Super Soldier Serum" aka Blood Transfusion.

What to expect before, during and after a blood transfusion...

Blood transfusions for anemia are performed at local area hospitals. I also know hospice centers perform them. I am only familiar with a hospital setting. A few days before, the day before or the day of a blood transfusion you must have a type and cross done. We never did a T&C the day of because we opted out of having to wait an additional two hours for an already long day at a hospital.

What's a type and cross? We were clueless as to what this meant the first time we heard it. You are required to visit the place where you are having the transfusion done and have a small vial of blood drawn. This procedure is done to determine your blood type and the rh factor so that your units of blood could be produced for you with the least amount of reactions possible. This blood has a short shelf life so once a transfusion appointment is set, do your best to stick with it. You will be given a medical bracelet with an identification number on it. This number MUST match your units of blood and MUST be verified by the medical personal performing your transfusion.

You will be told when to report for your transfusion. Dave was told to eat and drink as normal. It's advisable to drink some water beforehand to plump up your veins for a needle insertion for the IV. I've only seen a regular size needle. No monstrous needles should be used. We've been through 8 transfusions so far. A family member is welcome to stay with the patient.

Prepare to sit in a recliner or hospital bed for anywhere from 6-8 hours. Depending on how many units of blood and how speedy and efficient the staff is. The recliner is more comfortable according to Dave.

Each unit takes up to 2.5 to 3 hours. Sometimes more, sometimes less. It all depends if you need to use the restroom and unplug the IV which halts the transfusion.

Normally benadryl is injected into the IV just in case there are any adverse reactions to the transfusion. I've heard this is very rare. Tylenol tablets are also usually given at this time. Due to the sedative effects of benadryl you will sleep, doze off and be relaxed. You will most likely be hungry, so bring snacks. Pack a lunch also. Dave is normally served lunch since this is considered an inpatient treatment. Rumors are true that hospital food is bland and boring.

The saline solution is pumped into the IV at a slow rate for a short time. Then your blood replenishment (power juice) is administered. The saline pump is turned off at this time.

Sit back, relax, watch TV and know that this process will help you feel better.

After the first unit is complete, the saline pump is turned back on to clear the IV line and Lasix is injected into your IV. This diuretic medication is used to help you reduce some fluid retention. You will use the bathroom.

The transfusion process repeats itself for the second unit of power juice. There was one time when three units were needed. Oh my, that was a long day. We now do our best to keep it to two units by having his hemoglobin checked weekly. We used to panic about PSA numbers, we now stress over hemoglobin numbers. We are both not fans of numbers anymore.

Once the second unit clears you are done. Your breakfast of champions is now complete. Afterwards you will probably want to go home and take a nap. Some patients do, some don't. It takes a few hours to feel the rejuvenating effects. You will have more energy and shortness of breath should go away. Your nurse will give you a detailed list of what symptoms to look for after the procedure.

We are usually exhausted afterwards. It has a lot ot do with sitting around and waiting. Yet, it's for a good reason.

I wish you good luck and good health. If you have any questions you could contact me at lindabilyeu@gmail.com

UPDATE: July 7th, 2014
We found out today that there are new guidelines for blood transfusions. It used to be that if hemoglobin was bordering around 8.0 a transfusion was warranted. Now protocol is for 7.0. What's the reasoning? So that patients do not build up antibodies in which case their bodies would reject new blood. Now this is not set in stone...it all depends on the health of the patient. If a patient is tired, sleeping too much, short of breath or dizzy of course they would be transfused. Dave is feeling fine. We will recheck the hemo on Thursday.

Additional Prostate Cancer articles...

  • Prostate Cancer Doctors - Are They Still Clueless?
    This article is updated daily, weekly or monthly depending on where we are with treatments. Prostate Cancer is still a mystery to doctors. It seems like many doctors are still clueless. More research needs to be done. Hopefully in time to save my hus
  • Bone Scan for Prostate Cancer
    A Nuclear Whole Body Scan is a diagnostic test that we would prefer to never need. Yet, many people are required to have one performed for an in depth diagnosis for bone disease issues...
  • Provenge Treatment for Prostate Cancer
    Provenge Therapy is the latest treatment for Prostate Cancer. This is my husbands journey with Provenge.
  • Cancer Caregiver Tribute
    Chances are at sometime during our lifetime we just might be a caregiver to a loved one or as a profession. Over the years as a caregiver I've learned to appreciate and admire these amazing angels on earth...

Blood Donations

I'd like to take a moment and mention that each year over 15 Million people require a blood transfusion. Certain blood types are in short supply. Consider a blood donation as your way of giving back. It's a gift you could give someone else. Most importantly you could help save a life. Have you considered donating your blood? I'm including this link for more information from the American Red Cross. Blood Donations.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2012 Linda Bilyeu


Ginny Buccheri from Cowpens, South Carolina on December 19, 2013:

Hi Linda,

After our visit with my DHs oncologist today I searched online and found your page. My husband Gene has Stage4 Prostate Cancer and hemoglobin is 7.7. It has been going down a bit each visit for the last 4 visits, but this is the first I remember it being mentioned. Altho your journey has taken you farther in terms of treatment, I recognize the pattern and have a feel somewhat of what to roughly anticipate.

I admire your attitude, your style and fight for your husband's life and you have given me a new perspective. I have joined no groups and now will consider joining, perhaps on this site.

We have been fighting since 2009, when he was diagnosed at Stage 4, with mets in hip, pelvis and nodes.

I will pray for Cap and you and everyone who visits this page in the hopes of leaving something for others or taking something away for themselves.

Thank you for sharing your story, God Bless you.


Madeleine Salin from Finland on November 27, 2012:

First of all, I'm sorry I haven't read many of your hubs about prostate cancer. I'm hoping to catch up. I can see that Dave's cancer is taking much time and energy from both of you. I admire your positive attitude. I will have you in my thoughts and I have considered donating blood. Next time the blood bus stopps by, I'll be on it. We have a blood bus on tour where I live.

Jools Hogg from North-East UK on November 25, 2012:

Excellent hub Linda, you have given so much info here - this article may become a well visited one.

Girish puri from NCR , INDIA on September 08, 2012:

A well researched and informative hub, particularly for awareness or the people suffering, need the right guidance, very useful hub, thanks.

Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on September 05, 2012:

Recently my father has been diagnosed with enlarged prostate and I'm trying to learn all about prostate.

Linda thanks for sharing this useful and informative article.

UltimateMovieRankings from Virginia on September 04, 2012:

It goes without saying that my family is pulling for your family. I am sorry that you are learning so much about Prostate Cancer...but I am thankful that you are sharing this knowledge. Whenever I come across somebody that either has this disease or has a family member dealing with this horrible disease...I recommend checking out your hubs....based on that feedback your hubs are helping people everywhere.....keep up the good work.

Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on September 03, 2012:

Sunshine, you did an outstanding job of presenting the whole enchilada when it comes to needing a blood transfusion for prostate cancer. Thank you for describing the symptoms of low hemoglobin. I've had 2 transfusions due to low iron thanks to gastric bypass surgery. When my iron gets too low, it's just easier for the docs to change my oil. :)

Alecia Murphy from Wilmington, North Carolina on August 29, 2012:

I didn't know that much about prostate cancer either like alocsin said. But these hubs you have produced have given us all great insight and inspiration. Excellent hub!

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on August 28, 2012:

I'm certainly learning a lot about the treatment of prostate cancer from your hubs. I did not know that transfusion was involved. Voting this Up and Interesting.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on August 28, 2012:

I am familiar with blood transfusions, having been a Lab Tech for many years. My job was to type and crossmatch. You and your Hubby are very brave people to have gone through what you have. Does he still require blood?

You are an inspiration to all of here in HubLand: I hope you know that. I voted this UP, etc.

Nell Rose from England on August 28, 2012:

Hi Linda, this will be so helpful to others in the same situation, you are such an inspiration, you and your husband take care, nell

Martie Coetser from South Africa on August 28, 2012:

This journal of yours about your obviously awesome husband's prostate cancer is an excellent series, Sunshine, meaning a lot to MANY you will not even know. Voted up, interesting and very useful.

Linda Bilyeu (author) from Orlando, FL on August 28, 2012:

Thank you all for your comments, thoughts, prayers, wishes and just for being as wonderful as you are :)

Audrey Howitt from California on August 28, 2012:

My heart to you and your husband! Keep up the fight and keep smiling---

Stephanie Henkel from USA on August 28, 2012:

This is so helpful and informative for anyone anticipating their first blood transfusion. Not knowing what to expect can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. Although this is obviously not an easy time for you and your husband, you have a very calming and matter of fact way of writing about it that should help relieve some anxiety in others. I so admire the way you are reaching out to help others during this very trying time!

Ruchira from United States on August 28, 2012:

Gosh...i can so relate to this hub. My dad got his first transfusion and he felt like an IRON MAN. I agree this was a champion b'fast. I remember he would flex his muscles as if he had got some extra boost of energy.

Linda, you are a brave woman and your hubby is amazing to be smiling amidst all this. God bless you 2 with all the energy and positivity.

love this hub since, it touched a chord of my heart.

many votes and sharing it across

Dianna Mendez on August 28, 2012:

Great advice and help for those having to face this process. I had a transfusion years ago when I had surgery. It went well, but knowing this informatio before would have helped me sleep better the night before. Your husband is a real trooper!

Rika Susan from South Africa on August 28, 2012:

What a useful hub, Linda! These can be scary procedures and by explaining it all so clearly, you have taken a big part of the 'unknown' sting from it. I love that pic of Dave. Captain America indeed! He looks as if he has been quietly sneaking all my body-building veggie juice - a different (needle-free) power juice! You remain in my thoughts and prayers. Thanks for continuing to have the courage to share your journey.

Mary Craig from New York on August 28, 2012:

Those of us fortunate enough to not be in this position no little of what is truly involved. It is indeed a service you do by providing this information and sharing your journey.

What a wonderful couple you are and how brave to go through it with a the good nature you always share. You are definitely helping those in similar situations and/or those who know nothing about it. God bless you and Dave as you continue your journey.

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

healthylife2 on August 28, 2012:

Another great hub explaining the realities of a procedure that is common among many cancer patients and also happens with other illnesses. This will help be people be prepared and know what to expect. You are both always in my thoughts and I will continue to follow your updates!

Deepak Chaturvedi from New Delhi, India on August 28, 2012:

It is a useful hub,informative indeed. Sunshine you doing a good job.

Michelle Liew from Singapore on August 28, 2012:

Sunshine, a lot of Sunshine should go your way for writing this useful hub that should be shared with those who suffer from cancer of the prostate, like my dad (I'll pass this along to him.) Thanks for the great details and sharing. Shared across, Michelle

Suzie from Carson City on August 28, 2012:

Linda Sue, These valuable hubs that you write on prostate cancer contain priceless information, which you present so thoroughly, as well as thoughtfully.Your matter-of-fact and detailed description of every step to a transfusion, is specific and easily understood by the average person.

This is a gift you give others who must submit to this procedure, that surely guides them through an otherwise frightening event. Your advocacy is outstanding and quite admirable.

Once again, I must affirm that you and your dear husband Dave, are an especially unique pair and an example of personal strength, love and courage, during the fight against cancer. I applaud you both and offer gratitude and love...............Paula

Rema T V from Chennai, India on August 27, 2012:

Hi Linda,

Very informative for people who are suffering from prostate cancer and for the care givers and also for the others to be prepared for a situation like this. I wish you and your husband peace and happiness in the years to come. I have not yet read the other hubs on the same subject and will be doing so now.

Sharing it and tweeting it too.



Janine Huldie from New York, New York on August 27, 2012:

Linda, first off I am very much praying for you and your husband. I have been now following his journey through your articles and was aware of his status at this point. From this article, I can truly say he is a survivor and a wonderful person to share his experience so as to help others in his situation. Thanks to him for doing that and for you for sharing it on here. Have voted up, shared and tweeted too!!

Sunnie Day on August 27, 2012:

Hi Linda,

This was so informative and written so well. I am sorry I have missed your posts on prostate cancer. I worked in Urology as a nurse years ago and I am very familiar with this. They have made such great leaps and bounds in this area. Thank you for sharing and wishing the very best as your husband and you walk through this journey.

God bless