October marks the start of the flue season
As October marks the start of flu season, the Irish Cancer Society, in partnership with the HSE National Immunisation Office (NIO), is encouraging cancer patients across Donegal and their immediate household members to get vaccinated against the flu.
The society says that people who are undergoing or have undergone chemotherapy and other cancer treatments are at increased risk of contracting influenza because of their weakened immune systems.
“Some cancer treatments lower immunity and lower your resistance to flu. These may include chemotherapy, radiotherapy, some targeted cancer drugs and immunotherapy treatments. Your doctor will usually suggest that you have the flu vaccine if you have low immunity due to cancer or its treatment. But always check with them first.” said Aileen McHale, cancer information services manager at the Irish Cancer Society.
“The flu vaccine injection doesn't contain live flu virus so you won’t develop flu from having it. The common side effects are mild, including soreness, redness and swelling where the injection was given, headaches, and body aches and pains,” McHale added.
The NIO estimates that seasonal influenza (the flu) causes between 200 and 500 deaths each year in Ireland.
“The flu vaccine is a lifesaver for people with long-term health conditions, including cancer,” said Dr Chantal Migone, specialist in public health medicine at the NIO.
“Healthy people who live with, or come into contact with, at-risk individuals like people with cancer can pass the virus onto them even before they develop the symptoms of flu,” added Dr Migone. It’s important that people who have cancer, as well as their household contacts get the flu vaccine every year.
Kim Hanly, a cancer survivor, supports these recommendations. The 33-year-old IT student was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2012 and although cancer-free today, avails of the flu vaccination each year.
“Going through a cancer diagnosis is hard enough. Exposing yourself to the flu virus can make you very sick while you are going through treatment, resulting in unnecessary suffering and potentially putting your body at serious risk. Be safe and vaccinate,” advised Kim.
“By vaccinating myself with the flu vaccine, I am not just protecting myself, I am also protecting those around me who cannot be vaccinated,” she added.
To get the flu vaccine, contact your GP or local pharmacy. For anyone with a medical card, the vaccine and GP consultation are free. If you don’t have a medical card, the vaccine is free but you may be charged a consultation fee. If you are currently on cancer treatment check with your cancer specialist about the best time to have it.