Undergoing chemotherapy or radiation can result in a weakened immune system. After treatment ends, and possibly for a cancer survivor’s lifetime, infections can be life-threatening.
In their new survivorship guidelines released in March of this year, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recognized the importance of educating survivors about proper immunizations and other measures to prevent infection during and after treatment.
While being susceptible to the same germs as the general public, cancer survivors are at additional risk for different types of infections, depending on their stage and type of cancer treatment. Following treatment, cancer survivors should consider the following reminders to reduce their risk of infection.
Talk to Your Medical Team – Fever and other signs of infection should be taken seriously and reported to an oncologist. Many survivors may either be unaware of their risks or are unsure what to do or how to address their concerns with their doctor. Additionally, survivors should ask their medical team about the course of immunizations they should consider for the rest of their life.
Get the Right Vaccines – It’s generally recommended that vaccines not be given during chemo or radiation treatments until six months after completion. The only exception to this is the flu shot. Members of the survivor’s household may receive vaccines without risk to the cancer patient except in rare instances. Blood cancer survivors should receive certain immunizations to help boost or maintain their immunity. Survivors should always consult with their oncologists to determine the best course for immunizations.
Take Precautions – Survivors should know if their absolute neutrophil count (ANC) is low. Being aware of and watching for signs and symptoms of infection (such as fever, chills, sore throat, and stiff neck) are critical, as well as immediately reporting any symptoms to a medical team. Infections can also be picked up from food and drinks. Our Registered Dietitians are available to discuss any questions or concerns you may have about food safety and eating to boost your body’s ability to fight infections.
Use Prescribed Medicines to Prevent Infections – Sometimes doctors prescribe medicines when a survivor’s ANC is low. Even though there’s no sign of infection, the drugs are given to prevent an infection from occurring.
Potential complications from a weakened immune system can add to a survivor’s stress post-treatment and also jeopardize a survivor’s health.
|Blogh Author: Joseph Conner|