AFTER CANCER: DO I NEED ANY VACCINATIONS?

Vaccinations are given to help prevent specific diseases. They come in many different types. Some are routinely given to almost everyone, such as the tetanus vaccine. Others are given only to people with special medical conditions, such as the pneumonia vaccine. Still others are given to anyone with an increased risk of being exposed to the disease, such as yellow fever vaccination before travel to high-risk areas, or hepatitis vaccine before the start of work with high occupational exposure.

Discuss with your primary care giver whether you need any vaccinations now or in the foreseeable future and whether there are any vaccines that you should avoid. Vaccinations in adults are given when the benefit outweighs the risk, such as when there is an increased risk of getting infected or an increased risk of complications from the infection. In general, adults who are at increased risk of infections and who may benefit from certain vaccinations, such as the flu vaccine or pneumonia vaccine, include those who

• are over sixty-five years old

• have significant heart, lung, or kidney problems

• have certain cancers

• are on certain medications

• have had their spleen removed

•know that they are going to be exposed to a preventable infection

Vaccinations are given in hopes of building up your body’s immunity to specific infections before you are exposed to the infection. Exposure to the infectious agent after your immunity is boosted usually results in a milder illness or none at all. Vaccination does not guarantee protection, because many factors determine whether the vaccine works in you.

Vaccines containing live virus can be dangerous in certain patients. Be sure to discuss your cancer treatment with any doctor who recommends that you receive a vaccine, and discuss any plans for vaccination with your oncologist.

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