Cancer, the Flu, and You

This video explains easy ways to prevent the flu.

If you have cancer now or have had cancer in the past, you are at higher risk for complications from the flu.

Get Your Flu Shot!

Flu vaccination is especially important for people with cancer or a history of cancer because they are at high risk of developing serious flu complications.

Are You 65 Years Old or Older?

Some older adults (65 years of age and older) may have a weaker immune responses to flu vaccines. This can make them more susceptible to flu illness and complications.

Two vaccines that are designed to create a stronger immune response are available for people 65 and older—

For more information, see People 65 Years and Older and Influenza.

Do You Need a Pneumococcal Shot?

Having the flu increases a person’s risk for pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcal pneumonia is an example of a serious flu-related complication that can cause death. People with cancer or other diseases that compromise your immune system should ask their health care providers if pneumococcal shots are needed.

What to Do If You Get Sick

Photo of a nurse giving a flu shot to a patient

Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season.

Make a Plan

Make a plan in advance with your doctor about what to do if you get sick. Flu-like symptoms also can be a sign of a very serious infection that is not the flu. The plan includes when you should call your doctor and how to get a prescription for antiviral drugs quickly if needed.

Stay Home

If you have flu symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine. Keep away from others as much as possible to avoid making them sick.

Call Your Doctor

It’s important for people with cancer to call their doctor right away if they get a fever.

Flu Treatment for Cancer Patients and Survivors

CDC recommends antiviral drugs to treat flu illness, if your doctor prescribes them. If you get sick, antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They also may prevent serious flu complications.

Call your doctor immediately and ask if you should receive antiviral drugs if you have been within six feet of someone known or thought to have the flu and—

  • You have received cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy within the last month, or
  • You have a blood or lymphatic form of cancer.

Help Prevent the Flu from Spreading

Good health habits can help stop the flu from spreading. For example, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands often.

Page last reviewed: November 28, 2018