What is infection?

An infection occurs when the body’s immune system cannot fight off bacteria, viruses, and pathogens. A healthy immune system destroys harmful germs. However, white blood cells have a challenging time-fighting infection with a weak immune system.

Cancer and its treatment can make the immune system weaker by lowering the level of specific white blood cells. Most of the time, infections are treatable. If left untreated, it can be severe and life-threatening.

How bad is my infection?

Mild: The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, nasal congestion, stiff neck, cough, chills and sweats. Most of the time, mild heartburn can be safely managed at home by following the tips given in the section below.

Moderate: The symptoms are redness, soreness, or swelling in any area, including surgical wounds, diarrhea, sore throat and mouth sore. It may limit age-appropriate instrumental activities of your daily life (preparing meals, managing money, shopping, doing housework, and using a telephone).

Severe: Visit your doctor urgently if you have persistent fever, shortness of breath, increased urination and abdominal pain. It can limit your self-care activities of daily life (eating, dressing, getting into or out of a bed or chair, taking a bath or shower, and using the toilet).

How to manage mild infection?

Keep track of your infection using Ankr (myAnkr web portal or the Ankr app). It will help you describe the problem to your doctor or nurse.

  • Wash your hands well and often, after using the bathroom and before eating. You can use hand sanitizers.
  • Take a shower or bath every day.
  • Use lotion to prevent dry and cracked skin.
  • Use gloves when you garden or do housework, cleaning.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables well. 
  • Clean your teeth and gums with a soft toothbrush. Use mouthwash to prevent infections if your doctor or dentist recommends it. 
  • Get a flu shot each fall.
How to manage moderate and severe infection?

Call a doctor or go to the hospital right away if you think you might have an infection along with a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher and severe pain. Follow their advice and complete any course of antibiotics or other treatments.

What causes infection?
  • Chemotherapy and other cancer medicines
  • Radiation therapy to large areas of the body (pelvis, legs, chest, or belly)
  • Surgery
  • Bone marrow/stem cell transplantation
  • Cancers that affect the bone marrow (leukemia and lymphoma)
  • Cancers that have spread to the bone
  • Other health conditions (diabetes, kidney disease, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, liver disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD)

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