Cancer, the Flu, and You
What Cancer Patients, Survivors, and Caregivers Should Know About the Flu
Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season.
Living with cancer increases your risk for complications from influenza (“flu”). If you have cancer now or have had cancer in the past, you are at higher risk for complications from the seasonal flu or influenza, including hospitalization and death.
To help prepare you for the flu this season, CDC answers some of your most important questions about special considerations for cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers.
Are cancer patients and survivors more likely to get the flu than others?
While we don’t know this specifically, we do know that cancer may increase your risk for complications from the flu. If you have cancer now or have had certain types of cancer in the past (such as lymphoma or leukemia), you are at high risk for complications from the seasonal flu or influenza, including hospitalization and death.
Should cancer patients and survivors get a flu shot?
Yes. People with cancer or a history of cancer should receive the seasonal flu shot. People who live with or care for cancer patients and survivors also should be vaccinated against seasonal flu. Additionally, CDC recommends that everyone aged six months and older get a flu vaccine for the upcoming season.
Immune defenses become weaker with age, which places older people at greater risk of severe illness from flu. Also, aging decreases the body’s ability to have a good immune response after getting a flu shot. Two vaccines are designed specifically for people 65 and older—
- The high-dose flu vaccine contains four times the amount of antigen as the regular flu shot.
- The adjuvanted flu vaccine is designed to help create a stronger immune response to vaccination.
For more information, see What You Should Know and Do this Flu Season If You Are 65 Years and Older.
What other vaccines should cancer patients and survivors be aware of?
Many people who are at increased risk for flu are also at increased risk for pneumococcal disease. People with cancer or other diseases that compromise your immune system should ask their health care providers if pneumococcal shots are needed.
Health care providers: Display our “Fight Back! Get Your Flu Shot” poster [PDF-1.5MB] in your office as a reminder for cancer patients.
This fact sheet [PDF-426KB] answers questions about flu antiviral drugs.
This podcast discusses the importance of getting vaccinated against the flu every year.