Chemo and the Flu shot

nannyjsp Member Posts: 7
edited March 2014 in Colorectal Cancer #1
Has anyone gotten the flu vacine before they started chemo treatment. My husband is going to be starting chemo very soon and we were wondering if there would be any sense of getting a flu shot, siince the chemo wipes out your immune system. He starts radiation this Wednesday for 6 weeks. We will meet with Chemo doctors on the 9 of October and this was going to be one of our questions for them so any help from here would be appreciated. My husband is 56 years of age and is in good health except for the colorectal cancer. Thanks so much for your thoughts


  • Betsydoglover
    Betsydoglover Member Posts: 1,248 Member
    Hi -

    Good question. I can only speak from my own experience.

    Chemo never suppressed my immune system - at least not as far as blood counts could tell - they remained rock solid throughout.

    In Fall 2005, I was on chemo. That was the year of the big flu vaccine shortage. My internist still had no vaccine. My oncologist had it, but it was only offered to active chemo patients. (So, clearly she was more worried about a suppressed immune system leaving you vulnerable to the actual flu than to the immune system stress associated with the vaccine.) I had the vaccine about 10 days after what was probably my 4th or 5th treatment. Of course, I don't know if she would have done it if my counts had been low.

    Anyway, just letting you know that is not a foregone conclusion that chemo wrecks your immune system.

    Take care,
  • 4law
    4law Member Posts: 110
    I had 6 weeks of 5FU 24 hrs/day using a portable pump while I underwent radiation for rectal cancer. I started about the same time in Oct. in 2004. I asked about the flu vaccine and was told it might interfere with the chemo/radiation protocol. I was 60 at the time. Following surgery, and then months and months of chemo for follow-up, I am now NED and retest with colonoscopy and CT scans yearly. Everyone is different, so as long as you have faith in your doctor, do as he/she says. Having your questions written out before seeing the doctor is a good way to proceed. This community is a good source of information, inspiration and proof that this monster disease can be beaten. In a year or so, hubby and you will wake up and view the past year as a nightmare, but you will wake up and be well. Good Luck!
  • shmurciakova
    shmurciakova Member Posts: 906 Member
    My oncologist insists that everyone in her care have a flu shot precisely because chemo can weaken your immune system thus making you more likely to contract the flu and making the virus more dangerous if you do get it. She also has all family members get them too. I guess that is so they cannot pass any flu along to their loved one....
    I would recommend getting one, but follow your doctors advice.
    Take care,
  • sladich
    sladich Member Posts: 429 Member
    My onc recommended the flu shot. I get one every year. Also I had the ammonia vaccine. It's good for 3 years.

  • Monicaemilia
    Monicaemilia Member Posts: 455 Member
    Same here. Both my family doctor and my oncologist suggested the flu shot. Monica
  • apache4
    apache4 Member Posts: 272 Member
    I was 62 and doing chemo for a StageIV dx and my doctor said it was OK to get a flu shot. While I was there I got the pneumonia vaccine also. I had no reaction to either. The pneumonia one is supposed to last five years so, this year, I will get a flu shot. I am NED now. Good luck to you both. Hang in there.
  • kbienapfl
    kbienapfl Member Posts: 61
    I asked that very same question while at Mayo for my infusion today. I was advised that flu vaccines are ordered for all chemo patients and given.

    Today was my 3rd Taxol/Carbo infusion. I now have a two week break. When I return I will be given the flu shot while my immunities are at a healthier level.
  • apache4
    apache4 Member Posts: 272 Member
    I forgot to mention that the flu vaccine is not made from a "live" virus and that is why it is safe for almost everyone. Getting the flu is not a good thing when your system is compromised.
  • vinny3
    vinny3 Member Posts: 928 Member
    It is a good idea to get the flu shot at this time. That way he will be protected by the usual time the flu epidemic comes around. It is usually made from about 3 viruses, not live, as they do their best to estimate what virus will be going around in the coming year. It is also wise to be protected with the pneumonia shot. It won't protect against all pneumonia but is given to protect against the most common bacteria causing pneumonia in adults.