Cancer Treatments and Their Impact on Your Immune System

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Getting breast cancer doesn’t mean that your immune system is weak. However, certain breast cancer treatments can weaken your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to infection.

Chemotherapy has the greatest impact on immunity, but surgery and some forms of radiation therapy can affect your immune system, too. You should be aware of the possible signs of infection and report them to your doctor immediately, especially if you’ve recently had surgery or are in the middle of treatment. These include:

  • redness, swelling, warmth, or pus at the site of injury, surgical wound, or injection
  • cough or shortness of breath
  • mucus or pus in the saliva
  • nasal drainage
  • fever of 100.5 degrees F or higher
  • sore throat
  • burning sensation while urinating
  • chills or shakes
  • ear pain
  • stiff or sore neck
  • sores or white coating in your mouth or on your tongue
  • bloody or cloudy urine

Infections can worsen quickly when your immune system is weak, so call your doctor if any of these symptoms occur.

In this section of Breastcancer.org, you can learn more about each treatment’s potential impact on the immune system and what you and your doctor can do about it.

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