Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

Infection and Chemotherapy

Cancer Treatment: Infection and Chemotherapy

The side effects of chemotherapy depend on the type of chemotherapy and the amount given. Anticipating and managing side effects can help to minimize them and provide the best possible experience for the person receiving chemotherapy.

Infection and chemotherapy

As each person's individual medical profile and diagnosis is different, so is his or her reaction to treatment. Side effects may be severe, mild, or absent. Be sure to discuss with your cancer care team the possible side effects of treatment before the treatment begins.

Many chemotherapy drugs can damage the bone marrow, where blood cells are made. White blood cells are the cells that fight many types of infections, which means that chemotherapy can leave you at risk for infection. The white blood cell most critically impacted by chemotherapy is called the neutrophil. It fights bacterial infections.The bacteria that cause most infections are normally found on your skin and in your mouth, intestines, and genital tract. Sometimes, the source of an infection is unknown. Infections can happen to people even when they are very careful. Individuals who are fighting infections are sometimes given a medication to boost their white blood cell count after chemotherapy.

How can I help prevent infections?

Most doctors will offer the following suggestions for reducing your risk of infection:

What are the symptoms of an infection?

If you experience any of the following symptoms, consider it a medical emergency and consult your doctor right away, before taking any medications:

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