- What are infections and who is at risk?
- What can people with cancer do to prevent infections?
- Vaccines during cancer treatment
- Precautions to help prevent infection during cancer treatment
- Medicines to prevent infections during cancer treatment
- What are signs of infection in people with cancer?
- How does the body normally resist infections?
- Why are people with cancer more likely to get infections?
- Immunosuppression and neutropenia
- How cancer can increase risk of infection
- How cancer treatment can increase the risk of infection
- How nutrition affects risk of infection in people with cancer
- What are the risk factors that mean infections could be serious?
- How does the doctor know what kind of infection a person with cancer has?
- What kinds of germs cause infections in people with cancer?
- How is infection treated in people with cancer?
- To learn more
How cancer can increase risk of infection
Cancer cells can get into the bone marrow where blood cells are made. The cancer cells then compete with the normal bone marrow cells for space and nutrients. If too many normal marrow cells are destroyed or pushed out of the bone marrow, the few cells that are left will not be able to make enough white blood cells (WBCs) to fight infection.
Cancer can also damage other parts of the immune system. A tumor can grow through the skin or mucous membranes, breaking natural barriers and allowing germs to get in. Tumors may also reduce blood flow to the normal tissues by pressing on them or their blood supply. Tumors in the lungs may block normal mucus drainage, which can lead to infections. And tissues that have been damaged by cancer are more prone to infections.
Cancer cells can also release chemicals that change normal immune cells. This is a well-known effect of many cancers that start in immune system cells, such as lymphomas, leukemias, and multiple myeloma. It can happen with other cancers, too.
Last Medical Review: 11/06/2013
Last Revised: 11/06/2013