Should Cancer Patients Get the Flu Shot?

The flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and those around you. But will cancer patients benefit from the flu shot given their immunity and treatment status?

Flu shot clinic 2014. Raphael Ceccaldi, Ph.D. getting his flu shot.It is safe for patients who have not had a stem cell transplant to get the flu shot, and are highly encouraged to ask their providers about their vaccination options. However, those who have had, or who are currently undergoing a stem cell transplant, should take extra precautions. During a transplant, a patient’s immune system is extremely weak. Therefore, each patient has a specific timeframe for when it is best to get a flu shot, depending on where they are in the transplant process.

Unlike many providers, such as local pharmacies, Dana-Farber uses an inactivated virus, which is safer for patients. Patients are encouraged receive their flu shot at the Institute. If you are currently a patient and have been vaccinated in the past by Dana-Farber, you can easily make plans to be revaccinated.

Candace Hsieh, RN, says all patients should ask their health care team about their options, regardless of their status. “Every patient, and their treatment plan, is different, but any immunity is better than no immunity,” she says.

Proper hand-washing is a simple, but essential, way to prevent contracting and spreading the flu virus. You can also use alcohol-based hand sanitizer to kill germs. Antibacterial hand sanitizing stations are conveniently placed all around the Institute. It is also a good idea to stay home if you are ill, and always sneeze or cough into your elbow or a tissue. Throw it away afterwards, and avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth, as germs spread easily that way.