Therapy In Practice

American Journal of Clinical Dermatology

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 31-43

First online:

Cutaneous Fungal Infections in the Oncology Patient

Recognition and Management
  • Steven R. MaysAffiliated withDepartment of Dermatology, University of Texas Medical SchoolDepartment of Dermatology, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Email author 
  • , Melissa A. BogleAffiliated withDepartment of Dermatology, University of Texas Medical School
  • , Gerald P. BodeyAffiliated withDepartment of Infectious Disease, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

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Abstract

There are two main types of fungal infections in the oncology patient: primary cutaneous fungal infections and cutaneous manifestations of fungemia. The main risk factor for all types of fungal infections in the oncology patient is prolonged and severe neutropenia; this is especially true for disseminated fungal infections. Severe neutropenia occurs most often in leukemia and lymphoma patients exposed to high-dose chemotherapy. Fungal infections in cancer patients can be further divided into five groups: (i) superficial dermatophyte infections with little potential for dissemination; (ii) superficial candidiasis; (iii) opportunistic fungal skin infections with distinct potential for dissemination; (iv) fungal sinusitis with cutaneous extension; and (v) cutaneous manifestations of disseminated fungal infections. In the oncology population, dermatophyte infections (i) and superficial candidiasis (ii) have similar presentations to those seen in the immunocompetent host. Primary cutaneous mold infections (iii) are especially caused by Aspergillus, Fusarium, Mucor, and Rhizopus spp. These infections may invade deeper tissues and cause disseminated fungal infections in the neutropenic host. Primary cutaneous mold infections are treated with systemic antifungal therapy and sometimes with debridement. The role of debridement in the severely neutropenic patient is unclear. In some patients with an invasive fungal sinusitis (iv) there may be direct extension to the overlying skin, causing a fungal cellulitis of the face. Aspergillus, Rhizopus, and Mucor spp. are the most common causes. We also describe the cutaneous manifestations of disseminated fungal infections (v). These infections usually occur in the setting of prolonged neutropenia. The most common causes are Candida, Aspergillus, and Fusarium spp. Therapy is with systemic antifungal therapy. The relative efficacies of amphotericin B, fluconazole, itraconazole, voriconazole, and caspofungin are discussed. Recovery from disseminated fungal infections is unlikely, however, unless the patient’s neutropenia resolves.