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Cancer treatment improving survival but infection a concern for youngsters

Cancer treatment has greatly improved but is being undermined by the number of patients aged below 15 who are dying from infection.

A study, published in the journal Pediatric Blood and Cancer, examined death certificates of child cancer sufferers in England and Wales and found infection to be the cause of death of 25 per cent of blood cancer patients, reports the BBC.

Some five per cent of young non-blood cancer patients died of infection, reflecting the impact of the disease on white blood cells, particularly with the gruelling effect on the immune system of chemotherapy.

Dr Jessica Bate, clinical lecturer in child health at St George's University of London, told the news provider: "The big thing that came out was fungal infections and that's an area where we really need to improve how we diagnose them and how we treat them."

She added that improvement in the prognosis for childhood cancer patients coupled with the ready availability of effective antibiotics means these deaths are a concern.

By targeting and killing cells that divide rapidly, which is a prominent feature of cancer cells, chemotherapy also kills normally-functioning cells in the bone marrow, digestive tract and hair follicles, resulting in often distressing side-effects such as hair loss.

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Cancer treatment improving survival but infection a concern for youngsters
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