- 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
What are the risk factors that mean infections could be serious?
When your cancer treatment causes low white blood cell counts, you have a higher risk of getting an infection. When your absolute neutrophil count (ANC) is low (neutropenia), there are other risk factors that can make any infection you get more likely to become a serious one. For instance, fever is more likely to mean a serious infection if your ANC is low and you:
- Are in the hospital when your fever starts
- Have other serious illnesses
- Have cancer that is not controlled or is getting worse
- Have an ANC of 100 or less for a week or more
- Are age 60 or older
- Do not have normal liver and/or kidney function
- Have lung disease, like emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Can’t eat because of severe mouth sores
- Are dehydrated
- Have low blood pressure
- Are taking alemtuzumab (Campath®)
- Have signs that suggest pneumonia or another complex infection
If you have more than one of these risk factors, the risk of serious infection is even higher. Serious infections will probably need to be treated in the hospital because they can be life-threatening. A person with neutropenia and a serious infection must be treated aggressively and followed up carefully.
Factors that might work in your favor
When your ANC is low, an infection is less likely to be serious if you:
- Have none of the high-risk factors listed above
- Are expected to be neutropenic for less than a week
- Are still able to do most of your daily activities for yourself
Last Medical Review: 11/06/2013
Last Revised: 11/06/2013