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Carly Fiorina’s post-breast cancer infection: out of the blue?

Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina’s hospitalization for a breast-cancer related infection appeared to come out of nowhere as she continues on the campaign trail against Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer, but it’s not a complete surprise -- research has shown that post-surgery infections are not uncommon.

According to a 2008 study in the Archives of Surgery, the rates of infection are 4.4% of women who have a mastectomy, 6.2% for those who undergo reconstructive surgery using some of their own (abdominal) tissue and double that, 12.4%, for those who have reconstructive surgery using implants.

Of those patients who were diagnosed with a surgery-site infection in the study, 82% were diagnosed within 60 days of the surgery -- and if you count from Fiorina’s reconstruction surgery at the beginning of July, her readmission comes well past that timeframe. (Fiorina was diagnosed in February 2009 and completed treatment in October 2009. )

But on the bright side, according to the paper, nearly three-quarters of these cases were treated during a single day at the hospital -- meaning the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive could be back on the campaign trail very soon.

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In the meantime, here’s a little information from Cancer Research UK on what to expect after breast cancer surgery -- and what warning signs to look out for for infection.

Back to the Booster Shots blog.


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