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Cancer Health Center

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What Cancer Patients Need to Know About the Flu


Some scientists believe cancer patients are more susceptible to coming down with the flu, but that hasn’t been confirmed. However, it is clear that once they become sick, they have a higher risk of complications.

Will a flu shot interfere with any cancer treatments?

Flu shots haven’t been shown to reduce the effectiveness of cancer therapy, but that misconception probably helps explain why many patients mistakenly refuse to get immunized.

What should cancer patients or survivors do if they think they might have come in contact with someone who has the flu?

Call your doctor. If you’ve had chemotherapy or radiation therapy within the past month, or if you have leukemia or lymphoma, your doctor might prescribe an antiviral medication to prevent you from getting sick.

What should cancer patients do if they have flu symptoms?

If you’re at all concerned about your symptoms, such as a fever, you should contact your doctor. It’s likely that your cancer treatment, and not the flu, is responsible. But if you do have the flu, the sooner you see your doctor, the sooner you can start taking antiviral medication to minimize your risk of complications.

Is it important for caregivers and family members to get flu shots as well?

While everyone 6 months of age and older should get immunized against the flu, it’s especially vital for people who are in close contact with cancer patients. Flu vaccine can help keep caregivers and household members healthy and prevent them from infecting others.

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