Transfusion of red blood cells, platelets and plasma is widely used in the management of anemia and coagulopathy in cancer patients undergoing surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. The decision to transfuse should not be made lightly as exposure to transfused blood, whether from an allogeneic or even autologous source, is not without risk and the long-term effect of blood transfusion on cancer outcomes remains questionable. Recognition of anemia associated with nutritional deficiency should be promptly corrected while avoiding the use of erythropoiesis stimulating agents. Minimizing blood loss and the prompt control of bleeding, coupled with a restrictive transfusion strategy, seem to be a reasonable approach that does not appear to be associated with long-term sequelae. Limiting platelet transfusion to patients with severe hypo-proliferative thrombocytopenia, and implementation of local hemostatic measures, together with the use of fractionated coagulation factor concentrates, as an alternative to frozen plasma transfusion, may reduce the exposure of cancer patients to potentially harmful thrombogenic and pro-inflammatory cellular microparticles. This joint narrative highlights current opinions for minimizing blood usage in patients with cancer.
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