The immune system protects the body from harmful bacteria and other organisms. Cancer and cancer treatment may weaken the immune system in a number of ways:

  • Some types of cancer—especially lymphomas and leukemias—may stop the bone marrow from producing enough healthy white blood cells, which work to fight off infection.
  • Chemotherapy and radiotherapy may reduce the number of white blood cells produced by your bone marrow.
  • Surgery creates a break in the skin, making it more prone to infection.

If your immune system has been affected, there are certain precautions that can help avoid infection. These include:

  • Avoiding people with infections
  • Avoiding places where there is a risk of infection
  • Avoiding crowds
  • Talking to your doctor before you have any vaccines
  • Maintaining good personal hygiene
  • Keep a clean mouth
  • Protecting your central line or central catheter (if you have one) from bacteria and damage
  • Avoiding foods that may contain harmful bacteria