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News » Filed under: Coping with Cancer

Swine Flu: What Cancer Patients Need to Know

Article date: October 20, 2009

News of a growing outbreak of swine influenza A (H1N1) in the United States and other countries has many people worried about their health. While you shouldn't panic, it is important to understand that infections of any kind are a special concern for individuals during cancer treatment. That's because certain treatments, like chemotherapy, can weaken your immune system and make it harder for your body to fight off the infection.

If you're in treatment, these are common sense steps you can take to help protect yourself during this influenza outbreak:

  • Avoid large crowds of people.
  • Stay away from anyone with a fever, flu, or other infection.
  • Stay away from small children who spend their days in group environments like daycare or school; germs spread easily in these environments.
  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap after using the bathroom, blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If you can't wash your hands, use a sanitizing gel.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and put your used tissue in a wastebasket right away.
  • If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread that way.

If you're concerned about your risk of infection with swine flu, talk to your doctor and follow specific recommendations from him. Discuss whether the use of Tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphate) or Relenza (zanamivir) is appropriate for you. A swine flu vaccine is now being distributed to all 50 states and DC.

Symptoms of swine flu are similar to those of regular flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have also reported diarrhea and vomiting. If you have flu-like symptoms contact your doctor.

For more information about swine flu, see the CDC's Q&A: Swine Influenza and You.

For more information about how infections may affect cancer patients, see our document Infections in People with Cancer.


Reviewed by: Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff

ACS News Center stories are provided as a source of cancer-related news and are not intended to be used as press releases.

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