Low immunity increases chances of infection in cancer patients

December 9th, 2008 - 2:08 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 9 (IANS) When everyone is looking forward to the winter season, it is the cancer patients who dread this beautiful weather. Their weak immune system cannot stand the weather change and increases their chances of getting infection.“Due to a weak immune system, cancer patients are more prone to infection that increases at the rate of 15-20 percent,” Max Healthcare Oncologist Amit Bhargava said.

“Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy weaken the immune system which helps fight off infections. As a result, cancer patients are at a higher risk of getting or developing flu that can cause serious illness,” he added.

Elaborating on this, Apollo Indraprastha Hospital’s Senior Consultant Surgical Oncologist Feroz Pasha told IANS that the white blood cells (WBCs) that help the body to defend against infections and foreign materials are less in the body of the cancer patients - resulting in a weak immune system.

“They should use immune-booster supplements during their treatment and should keep a track of their WBCs for their well-being as they are more prone to get chest infections,” he explained.

Other problems that this season brings in for the cancer patients are viral infections and respiratory problems.

“Once a viral infection attacks a cancer patient, he should start taking precaution or else chances of getting bacterial infection increases and this could worsen the situation further,” Artemis Health Institutes Head Oncologist Ashok Vaid said.

“Also one should always see the symptoms for the flu which can be high fever, severe headaches, muscle aches and pains, extreme tiredness, cough and chest discomfort or sore throat,” he added.

People with cancer are also at higher risk of having bone complications.

“Cancer and cancer treatments may also increase the risk of bone complications. For this, they should take Vitamin D in plenty and sunshine is one of the best sources of Vitamin D,” Bhargava explained.

Elaborating on the measures Bhargava suggested that the patient should spend at least 10 to 15 minutes under the sun - at least twice a week. Also, intake of cheese and yogurt should be increased as they are fortified with Vitamin D.

Cancer treatments such as radiation therapy may result in skin problems as well like dry, itchy or cracked skin that may be made worse in the winter when humidity levels drop.

“Keeping skin hydrated and healthy is important to protect skin from cold temperature. Avoiding long baths or showers, using gentle soaps, applying moisturising lotions, drinking lot of water can also help from protecting skin from winter,” Bhargava said.

He said doctor consultancy is always advisable before gearing up for all these measures.

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