LIVING WITH IT WORKING WITH IT TREATING IT
As a cancer patient, you may have received a lot of information about your treatment and your journey to recovery. Chemotherapy and radiation cause many changes in the body as they destroy cancer cells. One major change is that these treatments weaken your immune system, which can increase your chances of getting an infection, including a fungal infection.
Stem cell transplant patients or those who have a blood (hematologic) cancer such as leukemia, lymphoma, or myeloma may have different risks for fungal infections. Please see Stem Cell Transplant Patients and Fungal Infections for more information.
Chemotherapy and radiation lower your white blood cell count. As you receive your cancer treatment, your white blood cell count can become very low, also known as neutropenia[PDF - 2 pages]. During this time, your body will have trouble fighting infections, including fungal infections.1
Fungal infections can range from mild to life-threatening. Some fungal infections are mild skin rashes, but others can be deadly, like fungal pneumonia. Because of this, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible to try to avoid serious infection.
Fungal infections can look like bacterial or viral infections. If you’re taking medicine to fight an infection and you aren’t getting better, ask your doctor about testing you for a fungal infection.
The type of cancer you have can affect your risk. If you have a blood cancer like leukemia or myeloma, you may be at greater risk for getting a fungal infection than people with other types of cancer.2,3
Your risk of infection can change based on the strength of your chemotherapy. Some types of cancer may require stronger chemotherapy medication than others, especially the blood cancers. This is sometimes known as aggressive chemotherapy. Aggressive chemotherapy weakens your immune system and can put you at risk for getting a fungal infection.4
Your hospital stay matters. After your transplant, you may need to stay in the hospital for a long time. While there, you may need to have procedures that can increase your chance of getting a fungal infection. Please see types of hospital-associated infections for more information.
Where you live (geography) matters. Some disease-causing fungi are more common in certain parts of the world. If you live in or visit these areas and have cancer, you may be more likely to get these infections than the general population.5 For more information on travel-related illnesses, please see the CDC Traveler’s Health site.
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