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Protect Cancer Patients from Infections

Categories: Antibiotic use, Healthcare-associated infections, Outpatient Care

Alice Guh, M.D, MPH

Alice Guh, M.D, MPH

Author: Alice Guh,
CDC medical officer and co-lead of Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients initiative

As clinicians, we know that the nearly one million patients who receive outpatient cancer treatment each year are at risk for serious infections that may lead to hospitalization, disruptions in chemotherapy schedules, and in some cases, death. Even so, it appears that outpatient oncology facilities may vary greatly in their attention to infection prevention. As one example – at an oncology clinic in Nebraska, it was discovered that syringes were reused to access bags of saline that were shared among multiple patients. This unsafe practice led to the transmission of hepatitis C virus to at least 99 cancer patients, resulting in one of the largest healthcare-associated outbreaks of its kind.

To help address this problem, CDC is launching a new program called Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients, featuring tools to help both clinicians and patients prevent infections.

As a cornerstone of this new initiative, CDC worked with partners to develop a Basic Infection Control and Prevention Plan for Outpatient Oncology Settings, which can be used by outpatient oncology facilities to standardize – and improve – infection prevention practices.

Based on CDC’s evidence-based guidelines as well as relevant guidelines from professional societies, the plan can be used as written or tailored for quick implementation in outpatient oncology facilities. Oncology facilities that already have an infection control plan in place should use this plan to ensure that their policies and procedures include the essential elements.

CDC’s Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients program also focuses on providing information, action steps, and tools for patients, their families, and their healthcare providers to reduce the risk of life-threatening infections during chemotherapy treatment. These resources include an interactive website that helps cancer patients understand their personal risk for developing a condition called neutropenia, a low white blood cell count during chemotherapy. Neutropenia is a common and potentially dangerous side effect of chemotherapy that reduces a patient’s ability to fight infection. Cancer patients and caregivers can answer a few questions about their risk factors and receive information about how to help lower their risk for infection and keep themselves healthy while receiving chemotherapy. The Basic Infection Control and Prevention Plan for Outpatient Oncology Settings and a link to the Web site are available at Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients .

I encourage you to share these new resources with your colleagues so that these vulnerable patients can be given the best chance to benefit from chemotherapy treatment and thrive.

Public Comments

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this blog is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

  1. November 17, 2011 at 7:47 am ET  -   Mostafa

    In most developing countries some physicians use antibiotics in viral infections to avoid other secondary bacterial infection resulting the surrounded pollution. I think that is the cause of antibiotic resistant. Therefore it must be wait 3 days with using antipyretic

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  2. November 10, 2011 at 8:10 pm ET  -   Foxxy

    Protecting Cancer Patients from Infections–_You would like to think healthcare professionals would use all safety precations, especially dealing with people, in a healthcare setting……very scary. Yes this situation needs to be addressed to all officials.

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  3. November 4, 2011 at 2:17 am ET  -   healthcare

    This is what I was looking for from last week. Great work done. :)

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