What Cancer Patients, Survivors, and Caregivers Should Know About the Flu

A Flu Vaccine Is More Important Than Ever!

This video shares the importance of getting a flu vaccine to protect yourself, your family, and your community from flu.

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

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

Are Cancer Patients and Survivors More Likely to Get the Flu Than Others?

We don’t know this specifically. But 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 higher risk for complications from the flu.

Should Cancer Patients and Survivors Get a Flu Shot?

Yes. Injectable influenza vaccines (or flu shots) are approved for use in people with cancer and other health conditions. The flu shot has a long, established safety record in people with cancer.

It is also important for people who live with or care for cancer patients to be vaccinated against seasonal flu to reduce the risk of getting the cancer patient sick.

Flu Shots for Older Adults

Some older adults (65 years of age and older) may have a weaker immune response to flu vaccines. This can make them more likely to get sick with flu or flu complications even when vaccinated.

Two vaccines are designed to create a stronger immune response in people who are 65 or older—

  • The high-dose flu vaccine contains four times the amount of antigen (the part of the vaccine that helps your body build up protection against flu viruses) as the regular flu shot.
  • The adjuvanted flu vaccine contains an additive (called an adjuvant) that can create a stronger immune response to vaccination.

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

You May Need a Pneumococcal Shot, Too

Having the flu increases a person’s risk for pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcal pneumonia is a serious flu-related complication that can cause death. People with cancer or other diseases that compromise the immune system should ask their doctor about pneumococcal shots.

COVID-19 and the Flu
Page last reviewed: August 24, 2021