October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and now is a great time to become informed about how you can help in the fight against breast cancer. One thing people don’t often think about is the dangerous complications that can arise in patients with compromised immune systems, just from being exposed to illnesses that are normally quite easy to recover from. Flu season can be a dangerous time for cancer patients, which is why it’s especially important that they get their annual flu shot. If you or someone you know is battling cancer, encourage them to get the flu shot this year, as well as getting one for yourself. It may save a life, and here’s why:
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than half of Americans don’t get their flu shot. For the majority of these people, it’s because they don’t believe that the flu is worth worrying about. According to a survey done by NPR, 48 percent of Americans don’t get the flu shot because they don’t think they need it. It seems like such a minor illness, so it can be easy to forget how dangerous it is. But the cost of underestimating the flu can be great — more than 30,000 people die each year due to the flu or complications from the flu according to Harvard Health Publications. Cancer patients who are either undergoing treatments or are in remission are at an especially high risk of complications relating to the flu, according to the CDC.
Everyone who is over the age of 6 months should receive a seasonal flu vaccine to protect themselves against a disease that annually kills even more than the Ebola virus. Inoculating your body to the virus is your first line of defense against getting sick. Doctors recommend that those who are concerned about their immune response, such as cancer patients, should receive the flu shot instead of the nasal spray, so their body is only exposed to inactive forms of the virus. The nasal spray contains a small amount of the live flu virus, which could be dangerous for those with weakened immune systems.
Because of their compromised immune systems, cancer patients who are in treatment or in remission are much more likely to experience complications from the flu than a healthy adult. This means even coming within six feet of a person who has the flu could be dangerous for a cancer patient. Cancer patients should make sure to get their annual flu vaccination in September or October, just before flu season begins. As a further precautionary measure, caregivers and family members should also receive a vaccine against the flu, because the vaccine can become less effective for people who are elderly or in poor health. To avoid spreading the flu, caregivers and family should avoid going near patients if there is a possibility that they are ill.
The flu virus can be a very dangerous illness, especially for people whose immune systems are unable to fight it off. Doctors recommend that everyone aged six months or older receive some form of the flu vaccine. Visit your local AFC Urgent Care to get your flu shot this Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and make the fight against cancer just a little bit easier.