CDC Introduces New Educational Resources to Prevent Infections in Cancer Patients


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is introducing two new educational resources as part of the Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients program. The comprehensive program, first announced in 2009, provides information, action steps and tools for patients, their caregivers and their healthcare providers to reduce their risk of developing potentially life-threatening infections during chemotherapy treatment. The new resources include an interactive website for cancer patients and caregivers, and a Basic Infection Control and Prevention Plan for Outpatient Oncology Settings.

Some chemotherapy treatments cause low white blood cell counts and place patients at risk for developing serious infections, says Lisa Richardson, MD, MPH, an oncologist and associate director for science in CDCs Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. This new easy-to-use educational program is an example of how CDC works to help people live longer, stronger, and safer lives.

Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients was developed by experts from CDC's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control and CDC's Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion in collaboration with scientists in the fields of oncology and infection control.  The program was made possible by a grant from Amgen to the CDC Foundation.

The interactive website, 3 Steps Towards Preventing Infections During Cancer Treatment, helps cancer patients assess their risk for developing a low white blood cell count, a condition called neutropenia, during chemotherapy. Neutropenia is a common and potentially dangerous side effect in patients receiving strong chemotherapy treatments that can lead to a higher risk of infection. Cancer patients and caregivers complete a short online questionnaire about their risk factors and receive downloadable information about how to help lower their risk for infection and keep themselves healthy while receiving chemotherapy. The resource is available online at

Since most cancer patients receive chemotherapy and treatment in outpatient settings (physicians offices), CDC experts identified key policies and procedures in CDCs existing guidelines for infection control in outpatient settings and customized them to meet the specific needs of outpatient oncology facilities. The Basic Infection Control and Prevention Plan for Outpatient Oncology Settings provide specific guidelines on injection safety, hand hygiene, environmental disinfection, and other related areas.  The plan outlines how the guidelines should be applied in outpatient settings where cancer patients receive chemotherapy and ongoing treatment. The plan and an associated checklist are accessible online at

"Infection in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy is associated with increased morbidity and mortality, says Sean Harper, MD, chief medical officer and senior vice president of Global Development at Amgen. By bringing together experts in oncology and infection control to raise awareness of this public health concern, we hope to empower patients, their caregivers and healthcare providers to take necessary steps to prevent infection.

As part of the comprehensive program, CDC produced a collection of posters, patient brochures, and a fact sheet. Additionally, CDC is reaching out to professional physician and patient advocacy organizations to help raise awareness of this serious health concern and the available resources. The educational materials are available online at


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