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A New Initiative To Protect Cancer Patients From Infection

October 31, 2011

Each year more than one million patients receive cancer treatment in an outpatient oncology clinic. Despite advances in oncology care, infections acquired in both community and health care settings remain a major cause of hospitalization and death among cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. Greater attention to infection prevention is needed for this vulnerable population, and the Centers for Disease Control has just launched a website and targeted program with tools to protect patients.

The program, 3 Steps Toward Preventing Infections During Cancer Treatment, is an evidence-based, interactive online program designed to help assess a cancer patient’s risk for developing both a low white blood cell count during chemotherapy and subsequent infections. After completing a short questionnaire, cancer patients and caregivers will receive messages designed to educate them about staying healthy while receiving chemotherapy. The 3 Steps tool estimates the risk for getting a low white blood cell count and possible infection while receiving chemotherapy. (This tool only provides an estimate. Determining an individual’s risk of disease or a specific condition is not an exact science. You should speak with your healthcare provider about your specific risk.) The tool will look at each answer you provide and decide if you have any risk factors that may put you at a high risk for getting a low white blood cell count during chemotherapy. Depending on your risk factors, you will then be placed in either a low-risk or high-risk category and will be given helpful tips on how to help lower your risk.

The website is part of a larger program called Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients, a comprehensive plan focused on providing information, action steps and tools for patients, their families and their healthcare providers to reduce the risk of developing potentially life-threatening infections during chemotherapy treatment. Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients and the tools and materials developed through the program are made possible by a partnership between Amgen and the CDC Foundation. Learn more about the program at http://www.cdcfoundation.org/preventcancerinfections. Learn more about CDC's work to prevent infections in cancer patients at http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/preventinfections.