Cancer and the Flu Vaccine

As you’re thinking about Halloween costumes and Thanksgiving travel, take a few minutes to think about the flu vaccine, too. The flu is not just annoying—it can be deadly, claiming between 3,000 and 49,000 lives each year. Cancer survivors need to be especially careful, as having or having had cancer increases the risk of complications, including pneumonia.

Last year was the most mild flu season in recent history, with a late start and fewer cases of the flu than in most years. This year’s flu vaccine protects against three strains of the flu, and is available via a shot or a nasal spray. The nasal spray is recommended for healthy people aged two to 49 who are not pregnant.

Symptoms of the flu include fever/chills, a stuffy or runny nose, body aches, fatigue, a sore throat and coughing. People are contagious from one day before symptoms appear to as many as seven days after they begin.

The CDC recommends that everyone aged six months and over get a flu vaccine, but especially people who are at high risk of developing complications of the flu, like those with cancer. The CDC recommends that people who had or have cancer get the flu shot (not the nasal spray). For more on the Flu and Cancer, see http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/flu/.

If you have further questions about the flu vaccine, please see your doctor.