CDC Foundation program makes a difference for people with cancer

(BPT) - Imagine being diagnosed with cancer, going through chemotherapy, and then getting sidelined by an infection.

Unfortunately for people with cancer, this is a serious potential side effect of chemotherapy. Each year, more than half a million people with cancer are treated with chemotherapy, which may weaken their immune system (a condition known as neutropenia), making them more vulnerable to getting an infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an infection linked to neutropenia is one of the most dangerous side effects of chemotherapy that can put a patient in the hospital, delay their treatments or even cause death. That’s why back in 2009, CDC and the CDC Foundation, with financial support from Amgen Oncology, set out to develop innovative ways to educate people about this side effect and steps they can take to reduce their risk of infections during chemotherapy.

The Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients (PICP) program is now celebrating its 10-year anniversary, and continues to provide evidence-based resources for patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals. To celebrate this milestone, the program has developed its first-ever public service announcement (PSA) highlighting the importance of infection prevention during chemotherapy and tips on how people with cancer can lower their infection risk.

“The CDC Foundation is honored to have been part of this program that has helped educate and inform cancer patients about their increased risk of an infection during chemotherapy since 2009,” said Dr. Judith Monroe, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation. “The PICP program has been strengthened over time as a result of our strong and lasting partnerships that allow these innovative tools to be disseminated to patients.”

“These resources are working,” said Dr. Lisa Richardson, MPH, director of CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. “By providing patients and oncology providers with simple, evidence-based materials, cancer patients and caregivers report that they understand their risk for neutropenia and infection better after visiting our website.”

As part of the program’s evolution, PICP recently launched new educational tools using virtual human technology: TINA. Housed in a free mobile app and on PreventCancerInfections.org, our fully animated virtual provider TINA (Talking about Infection and Neutropenia Awareness) is an interactive tool for patients and providers. For patients, TINA will ask and answer the user’s questions about infection risk and the steps they can take to protect themselves. For oncology providers, TINA allows the user to role-play and practice a conversation with an emotionally responsive and interactive virtual patient. This training tool was developed to help providers improve their conversations with patients about a topic that can be difficult to explain.

The PICP program is also available in Spanish, including a Spanish-language version of TINA (TINA en Español). One in three Hispanic men and women are diagnosed with cancer each year, yet there are few Spanish-language resources available, according to the American Cancer Society. Based on the fundamental belief that every person should have information tailored to their needs, 3 Pasos Para Prevenir infecciones durante el tratamiento del cancer was launched to meet the needs of the Spanish-speaking community.

“An infection during chemotherapy is serious, yet many cancer patients are not aware of what they can do to lower that risk,” said Dr. Darryl Sleep, senior vice president, Global Medical and Chief Medical Officer at Amgen. “I couldn’t be prouder of the work we’ve done with CDC and the CDC Foundation over the past 10 years to provide evidence-based, educational resources to patients and their families.”

For more information about PICP and its English and Spanish resources available for patients, caregivers and providers, visit https://www.preventcancerinfections.org/. TINA and TINA en Español are also available online or as a free mobile app.

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