Oncology nurses deal with life and death while caring for cancer patients. Some of them may be exposed to the highly toxic drugs that kill cancer cells but are dangerous to healthy individuals.
A study from the the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center found that almost 17 percent of nurses working in out patient chemotherapy infusion centres are exposed to toxic drugs on their skin and eyes.
Almost all chemotherapy treatments in outpatient settings are delivered by nurses. In Michigan 1,339 out-patient oncology nurses who worked outside the hospital setting were interviewed about their risks to toxic drugs used in cancer treatments. The study was released in the August 16 online first edition of the journal BMJ Quality and Safety.
According to lead study author Christopher Friese, R.N., Ph.D., assistant professor at the U-M School of Nursing any unintentional exposure to toxic drugs is dangerous, regardless if it is on the skin, eyes or from a needle stick. While nurses will seek treatment for evaluation and prophylactic treatment as soon as they encounter a needle stick they do not do so with chemotherapy exposure, states Friese in a EurekAlert press release.
While wearing gowns, gloves and protective clothing is recommended when dealing with chemotherapy treatments, their use is not mandatory. It's been found that when two or more nurses work in unison to verify chemotherapy orders there are fewer exposures.
Chemotherapy drugs can affect the nervous system, affect the reproductive system and carries a future risk of blood cancers.