Cancer and the Flu
Fortunately, there we are not experiencing the threat and worry around swine fly as we did a year ago. However, every winter brings flu of some variety, and this year will be no different. It is especially important for cancer patients, whose immune systems likely are compromised by ongoing treatments, to be vaccinated. At BID, we have a shot clinic set up in the hall outside the waiting rooms. Anyone coming for any kind of appointment in Hem/Onc can easily get the flu shot. There are sometimes reasons why a cancer patient should not receive the flu shot, so, like everything else, it is important to ask your doctor first. Do not just go to the local clinic at a CVS without checking with your doctor.
As hospital staff, we have been encouraged to receive the shot for the past month. Although it is not totally mandatory for staff to be vaccinated, you have to either have the shot or formally decline it before December 1st--or not get paid after that date. Rumor has it that the flu shot may be mandator next year. This is a big issue in hospitals because they don't want staff home sick and because they don't want us infecting our patients.
This is a quote from an article from ASCO's Patient Site about the importance of flu shots. The larger article is about winter in general, and I have included a link:
Many people look forward to the winter season. But when the temperature drops, people living with cancer need to take some extra health precautions.
Reduce your flu risk
Influenza, or the "flu," is common during the winter months. Cancer and cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, may weaken your immune system, which helps fight off infections. People with weak immune systems are at higher risk for getting the flu and developing flu complications
that can lead to serious illnesses. To help protect yourself against the flu:
Talk to your doctor about a flu vaccination. A flu vaccination (also called a vaccine; a substance introduced into the body that helps prevent an illness) reduces your risk of getting the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone who has a weakened immune system be
vaccinated against the flu each year. In some cases, people with cancer should not receive the flu vaccine, so talk with your doctor before you get vaccinated.
Get a flu shot. There are two kinds of flu vaccines: the flu shot and the nasal spray. The flu shot, given in the arm with a needle, contains a virus that is not alive, which means you cannot get sick from the shot. The nasal spray is made with a weakened form of a live virus. If you are undergoing cancer treatment, it is recommended that you get the flu shot instead of the nasal spray.
Get vaccinated early. Flu season can begin as early as October and end as late as May. Although it is best to get a flu shot before flu season begins, the vaccine is still beneficial during the flu season. After you get
the shot, it takes your body two weeks to build antibodies (a substance your immune system makes to fight illness) that protect you from the flu.