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A flu shot could save a cancer patient

Los Angeles -- Many U.S. oncologists are not advising cancer patients about getting flu and pneumonia shots, despite their increased vulnerability to the diseases.

A flu shot could save a cancer patientGet original file (7KB)

"People undergoing cancer treatment and their loved ones should ask their oncologists about these vaccines. They are a very simple, yet very effective, way for people living with cancer to extend their lives," said Dr. Neha Vapiwala, of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Vapiwala's study, presented in Los Angeles at the 49th annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, found 25 percent of cancer patients over age 50 never received the seasonal flu vaccine and one-third of those over age 65 never received the pneumonia vaccine.

Forty-four percent of patients who did receive either vaccine reported that they were asked or informed about these vaccines by their family physicians or internists. Only 7 percent reported being asked or informed by their oncologists.

"Oncologists have the opportunity to talk to patients about recommended vaccines during their frequent interactions with patients, whether it be before, during, or after cancer therapy. This discussion could result in better cancer care and ultimately save lives," he said.

© 2007 United Press International.