Benefits of Getting the Flu Shot for Cancer Patients

Dec 16 • 2014
Benefits of Getting the Flu Shot for Cancer Patients

If you have cancer or are a cancer survivor, getting a flu shot is very important. While cancer does not make you more likely to get the flu, it does mean that there is an increased risk of complications from the virus itself, such as pneumonia and hospitalization. Getting vaccinated can help protect your body from these issues.

Many people who are being treated for cancer are unsure whether it is a good idea to get a flu shot because they do not want to get sick or have any reactions to other drugs they are currently taking. It is important to speak with your doctor directly as he or she knows best about the treatment you are undergoing and the medications prescribed. Some people who receive the flu vaccine do get mild symptoms, such as a low-grade fever or achy muscles. This is a result of your immune system’s response to the shot and should go away within a day or two. It is important to note that the flu shot cannot cause the flu.

There are two main types of flu vaccines: shots/injections that are made of dead virus, and nasal sprays that are made of weakened live virus. It is crucial that people with cancer get the flu shot, not the nasal spray. While a weak, live virus may not pose any threats to a healthy adult, cancer treatments can weaken the immune system, leaving it vulnerable. If you are undergoing high-dose chemotherapy, or have recently received a bone marrow or stem cell treatment, it is recommended that members of the same household only receive the shot as well.

Remember that even if you are currently cancer free, you may still be at risk for serious issues if you do get the flu. Speak with your doctor about getting the flu vaccine and what the best steps will be for you to take.