Vol 3-3 Mini Review

Iron Deficiency Anaemia and Cancer

Sonia Bouri1, John P Martin1

1Charing cross hospital, Imperial College London

Iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) is a common condition. The finding of IDA should be given urgent attention as 8-15% of patients will be diagnosed with a gastrointestinal cancer and patients requiring urgent investigation should be identified. IDA is defined as a haemoglobin below the normal range with iron studies that indicate the presence of iron deficiency. This article will discuss the causes of IDA, interpretation of iron studies, and initial investigations for IDA. In the presence of infection or inflammation, the ferritin can be up to 100µg/l even in the presence of IDA and these patients should be considered as having IDA if the other iron studies are supportive. Patients of all ages with IDA should have urinalysis and a Coeliac screen. Patients above 60 years and symptomatic patients of any age should be offered a colonoscopy and gastroscopy within 2 weeks. Men and women younger than 60 years, who are asymptomatic can have routine colonoscopy and gastroscopy. Pre-menopausal women should undergo the relevant endoscopy if they have symptoms or a family history of cancer. If initial bi-directional endoscopies do not show cancer, cancer should be considered in patients who do not respond to iron supplementation, which can indicate ongoing blood loss from the small bowel, or from extra-gastrointestinal sources.

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