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Helping Cancer Patients Prevent Infections this Winter

Categories: Healthcare-associated infections, Outpatient Care, Patients

Alice Guh, M.D, MPH

Alice Guh, M.D, MPH

Author:   Alice Guh, M.D., M.P.H.
Medical Officer, CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion

When you are battling cancer, the last thing you want to get is an infection.  This is one of the reasons why I am involved in Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients,  a program focused on providing information, action steps and tools for cancer patients, their families and healthcare providers to reduce the risk of developing potentially life-threatening infections during chemotherapy treatment.

With flu season peaking, I thought it was an appropriate time to answer some questions about how cancer patients can take action to protect themselves against the flu and other serious infections this winter.

Why are cancer patients at greater risk for infection from the flu?

Cancer patients who are receiving chemotherapy are vulnerable to infections when their white blood cell count is low. It’s important for cancer patients to understand how to prevent infections year-round, and especially during flu season.

In the winter months, cancer patients face an additional infection risk: influenza or flu. Like other infections, flu is more likely to cause serious complications in cancer patients because of their   weakened immune systems. These complications can include pneumonia, a disruption to their chemotherapy schedules, hospitalization and death.

Program to Prevent Infections in Cancer Patients Hits Home

Categories: Healthcare-associated infections, Patients

Lisa Splitlog

Lisa Splitlog

Guest Author – Lisa Splitlog  
Director, CDC Value Communications
CDC Foundation

As a CDC Foundation staff member, I’m always proud to share with my family and friends how we help advance the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) lifesaving work through public-private partnerships that help protect our nation’s health security and contribute to a healthy economy. It’s exciting and fulfilling to work for an organization that makes a difference in the lives of so many.

Over the last few months, though, one of our partnerships with Amgen focused on preventing infections in cancer patients has really hit home for me. I was recently diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer and am currently undergoing eight rounds of chemotherapy, which will be followed by surgery and radiation. It has been an overwhelming diagnosis that has impacted virtually every area of my life—from the wig I wear to cover my bald head to the fatigue and loss of appetite that I typically experience after each round of chemo. Someone compared chemo to “being hit by a bus,” and that’s exactly what it feels like.

 
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