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Blood Infection a Threat to Cancer Patients

Death risk five times higher for those with complication in hospital

WEDNESDAY, July 7, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Severe sepsis -- a dangerous bacterial infection of the bloodstream -- causes about 10 percent of all cancer patient deaths in the United States, says a study in the current issue of Critical Care.

Cancer treatments and tumors can weaken a cancer patient's immune system, making it more difficult to fight infections.

The study found hospitalized cancer patients with severe sepsis were more than five times (37.8 percent) as likely to die than cancer patients who did not have severe sepsis (7.2 percent). Cancer patients with lymphoma, leukemia or other blood cancers were more susceptible to severe sepsis than patients with solid organ cancer.

"Our study demonstrates the devastating complication of severe infections in cancer patients. Improvement to infection control, such as early appropriate antibiotics, in this population could have a significant impact on overall cancer survival," Dr. Mark Williams, of Eli Lilly & Co., said in a prepared statement.

The annual hospital costs for treating cancer patients with severe sepsis is about $3 billion, the study said.

More information

The Society of Critical Care Medicine has more about sepsis.

SOURCE: BioMed Central, news release, July 4, 2004
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