Could a low red blood cell count mean cancer?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

I have a friend that just found out that she has to take venofer for low iron. She said that her body is not producing enough red blood cells. She is also a previous cancer patient. Could this mean that her cancer is back?

Expert Answers

Andrew Putnam, M.D. is a Palliative Care physician at Smilow Cancer Center at Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale University.

There are many reasons for a person to have low iron and low numbers of red blood cells. In a woman, it could be blood loss from regular periods (menses) that leads to the low iron. Diet and not eating enough iron can also be a reason among others. Cancer can be a reason for low red blood cell production. So if someone is a former cancer patient and the low iron is new or was a problem when she had cancer, she should go and ask her doctor about it. But there are other likely causes.