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Flu Shots and Cancer Treatment

Will the Flu Shot Affect Cancer Treatment?

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Updated February 05, 2008

As fall approaches each year, people rush to their doctor's offices, pharmacies, and even supermarkets to get a flu shot. It is common knowledge that the flu vaccine is the best means of preventing the flu, the vaccine is highly recommended.

What about the flu shot for cancer patients? It is a common concern about whether the flu shot can cause an adverse reaction with current medications, or generally have an negative effect on current health.

Should You Get a Flu Shot During Cancer Treatment?

Cancer treatment often leaves patients with a compromised immune systems. This means that the body's own immune system may have trouble fighting off viruses and infections. The flu virus can lead to more serious conditions like pneumonia, which can be life-threatening to those with a weakened immune system. While the flu vaccine is safe for most people with cancer, it's best they check with their doctor before getting vaccinated.

Which Vaccine Type is Best for Cancer Patients?

Cancer patients have to be cautious of what type of flu vaccine they receive. Flu vaccinations come in two forms:
  • inactivated vaccines (killed)
  • live vaccines (weakened)

People with cancer should receive the inactivated vaccine, which is given by a shot to the arm.

The live vaccine is in the form of a nasal spray and should be avoided by cancer patients, unless otherwise directed by a physician.

If you have serious egg allergy, you should not have a flu shot, whether or not you are a cancer patient.

Flu shots generally become available as early as September through December. The CDC recommends that people with a high risk of developing complications from the flu get vaccinated in October or earlier.

Sources:

"Inactivated Flu Vaccine 2006-2007." What You Need to Know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 12 Jan 2008.
http://www.cdc.gov/Nip/publications/VIS/vis-flu.pdf

"Questions & Answers: Flu Vaccine." General Information. 24 July 2006. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 12 Jan 2008.
http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/fluvaccine.htm

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