The Coronavirus Pandemic, brought about by the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, has been detrimental to so many different aspects of our lives all around the world. Some of the most seriously affected groups are cancer patients, their families, and caregivers. The issue of vaccination is especially important in their cases.
Vaccines in a way teach our immune systems to recognize and protect our bodies against certain infections. Luckily, with research done around the world, vaccines have become available to help protect against the SARS*CoV*2 virus and the Covid -19 infection.
Our experts have compiled answers to some of the questions people with cancer might have about the COVID-19 vaccines.
Many medical authorities recommend that most cancer patients or those with a history of cancer should get a COVID-19 vaccine. Since the cancer stage and type for every patient differs,, it is always best to consult your oncologist about the risks and benefits of getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
In general, cancer patients or cancer survivors can be vaccinated, but this depends on many factors, such as the type of vaccine, the cancer type and stage, if the treatment is still continuing or not, and how well their immune system is working. Because all these have to be factored in, it’s best to consult with the patient’s oncologist before having any type of vaccines, for Covid-19 and others. .
The most common side effects reported after having the vaccines include the following;
If a vaccine requires two doses, the side effects might be stronger after the second dose compared to those after the first dose. In most cases, side effects are normal and tend to disappear over the course of a few days.
Some patients might experience swelling and/or tenderness of the lymph nodes under the arm in which they receive the vaccine. This is usually a normal response of our immune systems, which is getting ready to fight a future viral infection.
A swollen lymph node under the arm can also cause concern, since this could also be symptomatic of breast cancer. Lymph nodes can shrink back down after a few days to a few weeks after the vaccine. This is still being studied. If swollen or tender lymph nodes do not disappear after a few weeks (or if they continue to gro), contact your doctor.
A number possible serious safety concerns relating to the vaccinations have been reported and studies about these concerns are still underway. .
In very rare occurrences, there have been weighty allergic reactions after having been vaccinated. The possibility of developing such serious allergic reactions is higher for people who have a history of highly allergic nature,
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There have been a number of Covid-19 vaccines but all of them are quite recent. Therefore, studies are still continuing about long-term side effects. Hence, guidance about the different vaccines may change as studies progress. If you have question marks, it’s advisable to consult your oncologist.
The Turkish Ministry of Health has put cancer patients and survivors on the priority list for Covid-19 vaccination. The question about getting vaccinated is about how effective the vaccine will be. It is not a questions of safety of the vaccine. The vaccine may not work the same way in cancer patients due to their weaker immune systems. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or immunotherapy can affect how our immune system works and this might reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine. Leukemia or lymphoma type cancers also cause weakened immune systems which renders the vaccine less effective. More studies need to be conducted on the effectiveness of the vaccines in people with weakened immune systems.
Even though vaccines might not be as effective in these cases, medical authorities recommend that most cancer patients get the vaccine. This is due to the fact that patients with weaker immune systems are more at risk of developing severe coronavirus cases, hence even a lower degree of protection from vaccination is better than not having any protection.
Since every patient and their cancer is unique, it is advised to discuss the risks and benefits of getting vaccinated with your oncologist.
Because the level of protection after the vaccination is uncertain, it is recommended that cancer patients and their caregivers and families should continue to take all precautions against the virus such as wearing two masks, keeping a distance, good hand hygiene, and avoiding crowded places. Furthermore, scientists are continuing to determine how long immunity lasts after the vaccinations.
Is there a specific COVID-19 vaccine recommended for cancer patients?
Vaccine studies have been conducted independently in different countries. As of now, there is no study to compare them. Medical authorities stress that getting vaccinated as soon as any of the vaccines is available is recommended rather than postponing to get a specific vaccine.
What if you have breast cancer or a history of breast cancer or a mammography appointment?
Some patients may have swollen lymph nodes close to where the injection was given. Since a swollen lymph node under the arm may also be a sign that breast cancer has spread, most doctors recommend that people with breast cancer or a history of breast cancer get injections into the arm on the opposite side of the tumor.
Swollen lymph nodes after vaccination can also have an impact on mammogram results. This could result in unnecessary anxiety and lead to the need for further testing. If you have scheduled a mammogram close to your vaccination date, it is important to tell your physician when and in which arm you received the injection. Experts would tell you if you need to postpone your appointment, depending on the case. Do not delay your mammogram without talking to your oncologist first.
If you are receiving chemotherapy, should you be vaccinated?
The correct timing of Covid-19 vaccine administration in patients receiving chemotherapy, whether the response to the vaccine is sufficient in patients who continue chemotherapy and whether additional / booster doses are needed in these patients, in the light of current data, there is no clear evidence-based answer. It is recommended that all cancer patients ongoing chemotherapy or hormonotherapy have any approved and accessible vaccine within the knowledge of their doctors.
If you are receiving radiotherapy, should you be vaccinated?
There is no restriction on Covid-19 vaccine administration in patients currently receiving radiotherapy by Radiation Oncology associations or chambers. For this reason, it is recommended that cancer patients have any approved and accessible vaccine within the knowledge of their doctors.