With flu season quickly approaching, the team at Comprehensive Cancer Centers wants to share information with patients undergoing treatment, as well as those helping with their care, regarding immunizations during treatment.

The team at Comprehensive Cancer Centers generally recommends that vaccines not be given during chemotherapy or radiation treatments, with the only exception being the flu shot. Vaccines need an immune system response to provide their benefits, and during cancer treatment the immune system will not likely provide an adequate response to the vaccine.

An additional risk in getting immunizations during cancer treatment comes from some of the inoculations containing live viruses. These viruses can often cause infections with those in treatment, causing complications including delays in treatment. Live-virus polio, measles and smallpox vaccines given to those with weakened immune systems have caused  infections, adding additional necessity for caution during cancer treatment.

What Vaccines Do Adults Need?

For most adults, immunizations outside of flu shots aren’t normally seen as necessary unless foreign travel is involved or if they’re required for work obligations, such as taking care of young children. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the need for vaccines does not go away as you get older. There are specific ages in an adult’s life when vaccinations are highly recommended. Also of concern in the fact that vaccines received in younger ages can wear off over time, and increase risk of exposure to preventable diseases.

The CDC recommends the following vaccinations for most adults:

  • Seasonal Influenza (flu) – Everyone six months and older should get a flu vaccine every year to reduce risk of flu and its potentially serious complications.
  • Pertussis (whooping cough) – The Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) vaccine is recommended for women during pregnancy and once for all adults who have not previously received the vaccination.
  • Tetanus and Diphtheria – The Td vaccine is recommended every 10 years and can often be given immediately for an injury such as a cut that gets infected.
  • Shingles – The shingles vaccine is recommended for adults 50 years and older.
  • Pneumococcal Disease – Two pneumococcal vaccines are recommended for adults 65 years and older. One or both vaccines may be recommended for adults younger than 65 who have specific health conditions or who smoke cigarettes.

With increased education and exposure, more adults are becoming aware of the benefits of vaccinations at older ages. For some people this has led to vaccinations becoming another routine in life. It’s critically important, however, to consult with your Comprehensive Cancer Centers’ oncologist before getting any shot or vaccine

Friends and Family and Vaccinations

An important factor to consider, with regard to vaccinations, is those who are around you while you’re being treated for cancer. Make sure that your loved ones always get their flu shots, and any other scheduled inoculations. If you have young children, or are around them, be certain that their vaccination schedules are up-to-date. For older loved ones, make sure they follow the CDC guidelines for immunizations on this page.

Be mindful about any exposure to those who are ill, especially those with conditions such as chicken pox, measles or shingles. If you’re concerned about potential exposure, make sure your oncologist is made aware of what viruses you may have been exposed to immediately. With not all parents make sure their children, and themselves, are vaccinated, risks are increasing with exposure occurring simply by being around carriers of illness. Comprehensive urges its patients to be mindful of any symptoms of these diseases, and to not hesitate to get immediate medical care if you are concerned.

Travel and Vaccines

Some patients may still wish to travel, and travel internationally, while undergoing treatment for cancer. If you are among this group, be certain to meet with your oncologist well in advance of your trip to discuss ways to mitigate risks, as well as be prepared to stay healthy while far away from a clinic.

For those living with cancer, vaccinations are another factor to consider and another reason to maintain open and honest conversation channels with your oncologist.

Comprehensive Cancer Centers Can Help

Physicians at Comprehensive Cancer Centers provide a variety of treatment options for patients with cancer, blood disorders, breast health conditions, pulmonary disease, sleep challenges and those interested in cancer genetic counseling or clinical research. To schedule an appointment with the team at Comprehensive, please call 702-952-3350.


The content is this post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.