Expect Questions, and Some Reluctance, About Getting a Flu Shot

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People with weakened immune systems due to diseases like cancer are at increased risk of severe complications from the flu virus and should get flu shots annually. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly encourages this practice, and most oncologists would recommend that for their patients with cancer, Mollie deShazo, MD, said in an interview with The ASCO Post. Dr. deShazo is Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology and Medical Director of Inpatient Oncology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Reluctant Patients

Some patients, however, may need a push. “I think cancer patients are always wary about taking a medicine that they haven’t talked to their doctor about. So while the general population will run into a drug store and get a flu shot, a cancer patient is a little more resistant to that,” she said.

“But I think most oncologists would recommend the flu shot to cancer patients,” she continued. “It is definitely advisable and their best source of preventing the flu or at least reducing complications if they were to get it. I have sensed some reluctance about getting the flu shot among some of my patients, but I encourage all of them to do so.”

On the Checklist

“‘Did you get a flu shot?’ is on a checklist of what our nurses ask the patients,” Dr. deShazo said. “And I personally ask every single one of them if they have had the flu shot. If caregivers are there, I ask them too. Anyone in the room on a patient visit means they have enough exposure to my patient that I want them to have gotten the flu shot.” ■

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