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immune system after chemo and radiation

Jan Trinks's picture
Jan Trinks
Posts: 477
Joined: Apr 2009

Hi all:

Been awhile since I've posted anything; but wanted to know about immune system after chemo and radiaiton. My husband finished his chemo in Jan. '09 (with two carbos in March) and finished his radiation in April. His PET scan on 9/1 was extraordinary! (Praise the Lord!) His three month check in with his radiation oncologist this past Wed. was good too. He's been back at work for six months now and the last of Oct. he and I both had cold/sinus cough, mess. He went to the doctor (primary care) had a chest x-ray to be sure it wasn't pnemonia which it wasn't; doc put him on a z-pak which helped but tore his stomach to pieces (nauseated) got better; but last week had what we thought was probably a head cold; however according to the radiation oncologist he had thrush again so now is on medicine for that. So my question is this anybody out there know if and how long the immune system is comprimised due to chemo and radiation? We've both had the reg. flu shot and go to the doctor tomorrow for the H1N1 shot. Hope everyone had a great T'giving and Merry Christmas to all. Thanks.

Jan Trinks

Hondo's picture
Posts: 6643
Joined: Apr 2009

Everyone is different on how they heal after treatments so it is hard to say how much time will go by before his immune will kick in and take over. There are a lot of things you can do to help his body help its self. One of the most important is the diet; remember everything you put into the body affects how it reacts to something else. I am about 85% Vegetarian and the meat I do eat is Organic. I also stay off of Sugar and Sugar product even the so called Sugar substitute are no good for the immune system that is trying to heal.

You may also want to try Echinacea and Vitamin –C

Take the Echinacea when you feel you are starting to get sick or when you are around someone who is sick. Take about 2000mg of the Vitamin –C everyday

Sorry I don’t have any better info on this, but I will keep you both in Prayer, God bless

Kent Cass
Posts: 1898
Joined: Nov 2009

I had what seemed to be a 1 1/2-month COLD that began the day of my last Rad, and recently went thru another such COLD- but nothing more than that in 8 months of post-treatment. So, it's my experience the immune system does recover better than what your husband's seems to have. I'm 55, and do eat well. Hondo can offer good advice on diet. I love chef-type salads, and fresh fruit (not processed). One has to give their body what it needs for such as the immune system.
Thrush was mentioned to me by both my Periodontist and Oncologist, but said it looked like I was doing okay. It is a potential problem for us.

SASH's picture
Posts: 400
Joined: Apr 2006

It takes a long time to get your immune system back into a "normal" range. I ended up getting thrush infections for a couple of years after treatment. Once I knew what it looked like, I would just call the ENT and ask for a prescription for my Diflucan. He would call it in to the pharmacy for me and I didn't even have to bother going to see him. I haven't had thrush in probably 7 or 8 years now. When they draw blood make sure they do a CBC (white blood cell count) and this will help to see how close to "normal" he is.

Posts: 50
Joined: Mar 2009

Get 'em checked and you will know where you are in your fight against infection.

Taken from the web...

Absolute neutrophil count: The real number of white blood cells (WBCs) that are neutrophils. The absolute neutrophil count is commonly called the ANC.

The ANC is not measured directly. It is derived by multiplying the WBC count times the percent of neutrophils in the differential WBC count.

Neutrophils are key components in the system of defense against infection. An absence or scarcity of neutrophils (a condition called neutropenia) makes a person vulnerable to infection. After chemotherapy, radiation, or a blood or marrow transplant, the ANC is usually depressed and then slowly rises, reflecting the fact that the bone marrow is recovering and new blood cells are beginning to grow and mature.

In practical clinical terms, a normal ANC is 1.5 or higher; a "safe" ANC is 500-1500; a low ANC is less than 500. A safe ANC means that the patient's activities do not need to be restricted (on the basis of the ANC).

thegirlfriend's picture
Posts: 147
Joined: Sep 2009

I wondered about weakness. Everyone tells about the no saliva, the mucous, taste, but is there anyone out there who for some weeks after treatment continued to feel very weak to the point of some shakiness? is that from just not eating enough, whether it be from feeding tube or not, or just the general body working overtime to heal itself?

That has been the biggest thing the past few weeks for my boyfriend. That and pain in his mouth, but moreso, the weakness and fatigue. THis is common?


pk's picture
Posts: 192
Joined: Aug 2009

My husband was very weak and fatigued for the first few weeks out of treatment. The good news is that this gets better. He is now 10 weeks out and no longer tires so easily, is eating normally ( taste for some things is still off) and has even been pheasant hunting for 4 days and plans to go again next week. Hang in and hang on. It all takes time and I know the feeling of wanting to hurry this along. PK

cwcad's picture
Posts: 117
Joined: Nov 2009

Weakness is probably the biggest concern for me. Diagnosed with tongue cancer in February 07 I am still troubled with fatigue. One major reason why I am so weak is the fact that lost a lot of weight(120 lbs.) and muscle mass. I certainly am better but to say I am back to normal is just not true in my case. This is where the new normal comes in to play. I am physically and emotionally different after treatments. Getting a handle on your emotional state will aide in your recovery. I was reticent to seek help for emotional disorders and I firmly believe it has been to my detriment on my road to recovery.

I am actively seeking treatment at this point and I encourage you do do the same. In the long run I think it will help get a handle on your fatigue as well. Proper diet and a regimen of hydrating with water daily will also help. Cannot get enough water. It is natures nectar as far as I am concerned.

Landranger25's picture
Posts: 208
Joined: Nov 2009

I am 2 months uut of treatment and although doing better still have what I would call minimal shakes and weakness. It is not nearly as bad as it was right after treatment but is still there. I find that the more active I am the more noticable to me it is but I also feel that the more active I am the sooner it will go away. I am feeling stronger and healthier everyday. I will soon add some pushups and pullups to my everyday stretching. The radiation has caused aching in my neck and shoulder muscles and the stretching seems to help. This also includes opening my mouth as far as possible several times to stretch those jaw muscles.


CajunEagle's picture
Posts: 399
Joined: Oct 2009

Mike. After therapy last June, all I could do is stumble around....drop stuff....not able to lift eight pounds.....etc.. Wife then arranged for a personal trainer to work with me 3 days a week, hour each day. I sorta poo-pooed that idea, but went along with it. After 4 months I realize that was the best thing to do. It has helped me tremendously in upper body strength....balance control....leg strength....and just plain good mental health.

thegirlfriend's picture
Posts: 147
Joined: Sep 2009

My boyfriend is going back to drs Tuesday morning for a check up. Not time for PET scan yet, but he just wants them to check him over. The fatigue/weakness/shakes has him a little freaked as well as the nausea created when he smells food, and inability to do anything that will creat excersion, which makes him throw up. So he wont do any excersize. Pain in mouth and throat still prevalent, mucous, no taste, lost 50 lbs, much of it muscle mass. He is 6 1/2 weeks out of treatment, not eating anything solid yet, only 3x a day thru the tube.
Just tired of waiting to see when one of these side effects will get better. something to make it more encouraging.


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