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Infection

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board , 10/2016

An infection occurs when the immune system does not quickly destroy harmful substances. Both cancer and cancer treatments weaken the immune system. This means that people with cancer are more likely to develop infections.

Treatment to relieve symptoms and side effects is an important part of cancer care. This approach is called supportive or palliative care . Talk with your health care team about any symptoms or changes in symptoms that you experience.

About the immune system

The immune system fights bacteria, viruses, and fungi that try to invade the body. The immune system includes these body parts:

A low level of white blood cells is called leukopenia. This condition increases the risk of developing dangerous infections. Neutropenia is a type of leukopenia. It means a low level of neutrophils. Neutrophils are the most common type of white bloods cells.

Signs and symptoms of an infection

Infections may start almost anywhere. Common infection sites:

Signs of infection:

Infections are treatable. However, they can be serious and potentially life-threatening. Talk with your doctor if you experience signs of an infection. Also, be sure to mention any changes in your symptoms.

Risk factors for developing an infection

The following factors can affect white blood cells and weaken the immune system:

Treating infections

Neutropenia, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy may place you at a higher risk of infection. In that case, you may receive preventive antibiotics or antifungal medications. This means the anti-infection medication is given before an infection starts.

In other cases, you may receive medication after developing an infection. If you develop neutropenia with a fever, you may need to stay in the hospital until the infection is gone.

If you have a high risk of developing neutropenia with a fever, your doctor may prescribe medications called white blood cell growth factors. These drugs help the body make more white blood cells. This reduces the risk of an infection. Learn more about ASCO’s recommendations for white blood cell growth factors.

Tips for preventing infections

There are steps you can take to help prevent infections:

More Information

When to Call the Doctor During Cancer Treatment

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Side Effects of Radiation Therapy

Additional Resources

National Cancer Institute: Infection and Neutropenia

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BI ACCOUNTS
Lindsay Dodgson
May 29, 2018, 5:34 AM
A new study suggests that popular vitamin supplements are mostly useless. The most popular vitamin supplements, including vitamin C and calcium, don't really have major health benefits, the study found. Folic acid and B vitamins with folic acid could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, according to the study. But some others, like niacin and antioxidants, could actually cause harm.

Vitamin and mineral supplements are a staple in many people's diets, but there is increasing evidence to suggest the most popular ones are essentially useless .

A new systematic review of data and trials published between January 2012 and October 2017 found that many popular multivitamins — as well as vitamin C, vitamin D, and calcium supplements — had no real advantage to people's health and that there was no evidence taking them reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, or early death.

The study, Navy canvas Union Wharf boat shoes cheap popular hKpa4aJwA
, was led by researchers at St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto.

"We were surprised to find so few positive effects of the most common supplements that people consume," said Dr. David Jenkins, the lead author of the study. "Our review found that if you want to use multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium or vitamin C, it does no harm — but there is no apparent advantage either."

There were, however, a few apparently advantageous supplements. Folic acid and B vitamins with folic acid may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, the study found. Niacin (a form of vitamin B3) and antioxidants, meanwhile, were associated with a higher risk of death by any cause, albeit a very small increase.

The researchers say these higher risks could be related to niacin's adverse effects on blood-sugar levels, or that when taken in high doses, antioxidants can be harmful . Alternatively, it could have something to do with people sometimes thinking that taking vitamins can be a substitute for a healthy, balanced diet.

"These findings suggest that people should be conscious of the supplements they're taking and ensure they're applicable to the specific vitamin or mineral deficiencies they have been advised of by their healthcare provider," Jenkins said.

The vitamins the team reviewed were A, B1, B2, B3 (niacin), B6, B9 (folic acid), C, D, and E, as well as carotene, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and selenium.

Research has found that some vitamins are more useful than others . For example, zinc has been linked to shortening the effects of a cold — something vitamin C doesn't do, despite what people think. Vitamin D can also be difficult to get from food, so if you're deficient, supplements may also be effective.

"In the absence of significant positive data — apart from folic acid's potential reduction in the risk of stroke and heart disease — it's most beneficial to rely on a healthy diet to get your fill of vitamins and minerals," Jenkins said. "So far, no research on supplements has shown us anything better than healthy servings of less processed plant foods , including vegetables, fruits, and nuts."

SEE ALSO: Most dietary supplements are useless — here are the ones you should take

In order to ensure participants of First Nations and Métis heritage, data were collected in several communities with a high proportion of First Nations and Métis residents in conjunction with local health authorities. The highest numbers of First Nations and Métis participants were recruited through collaboration with the Yukon Department of Health and Social Services and the Saskatoon Health Region. In accordance with the Tri-Council requirements of conducting research in Aboriginal communities, ethics approvals were granted by the Health Canada/PHAC Research Ethics Board and by each local research ethics office or board. The First Nations and Métis subgroup of the CANRISK study population was used for this analysis. Participants who identified one or more parents of First Nations or Métis origin were retained in the analysis. In Phase 1, the data collection grouped those of First Nations, Métis and Inuit heritage into a single variable of Aboriginal heritage, which we were unable to separate. We ascribed First Nations and Métis ethnicity to all participants from Phase 1 who were recruited from the Saskatoon site and who self-identified as having Aboriginal heritage. As less than 1% of the Aboriginal population identifies as Inuit in Saskatoon Footnote 24 , we are confident that the number of Inuit participants that misclassified as First Nations and Métis is minimal.

There were two different data gathering procedures, depending on the data collection phase (first or second). During the first phase, data gathering began at the time of recruitment with informed consent and instructions to arrive at the data collection site on a different day in a fasting state. Once at the data collection site, CANRISK was self-administered, and anthropometric measurements and two venous blood samples were collected on-site to determine glycemic status (see details below, the oral glucose tolerance test or OGTT); both of which were performed by nurses or health professionals. During the second data collection phase, however, informed consent was collected, as well as CANRISK scores and anthropometric measurements, all during the initial visit. Participants were then instructed to arrive at the blood collection site on a different day in a fasting state in order to collect the same two venous blood samples (to determine glycemic status by OGTT). Anthropometric measurements were taken in a standardized way after all project staff had received training. Participants were weighed using a digital standing scale without shoes and dressed in indoor clothing. A standardized tape measure attached to the wall was utilized for height and the minimum circumference between the umbilicus and xiphoid provided the WC measurements.

The CANRISK tool collected information on sex, age, mother and father's ethnicity, self-reported physical activity (such as brisk walking for at least 30 minutes each day), self-reported daily fruit and vegetable consumption, history of high blood pressure, history of high blood glucose, family history of diabetes, and education. Footnote 17 The full CANRISK tool can be found here: http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/en/canrisk?utm_source=VanityURLutm_medium=URLutm_campaign=publichealth.gc.ca/canrisk. Individual CANRISK scores were generated for each participant according to the publicly available CANRISK tool. Footnote 25 Since the CANRISK tool was intended for participants over the age of 40, the reference group (zero points) for age was 40 to 44 years. As such, the participants in the present study under the age of 40 were also assigned zero points for age-related risk.

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