COVID-19 vaccines for cancer patients
MD Anderson is offering the updated 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech to MD Anderson patients and employees.
Patients should talk to your care team about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine at their next appointment or by scheduling a COVID-19 vaccination appointment.
Those who have received the vaccine at another health care provider should let their care team know. Patients can submit their vaccination information using the COVID-19 section of MyChart for their care team to add vaccination details to their record.
COVID-19 vaccines are safe and recommended for cancer patients
Your safety is always our top priority. We understand that many of our patients have serious medical conditions, including weakened immune systems, and are at greater risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing serious illness from infection.
- Patients currently receiving chemotherapy, immunotherapy, CAR T-cell therapy, stem cell treatments or participating in clinical trials can receive the vaccine. Check with your provider for vaccine timing recommendations prior to scheduling.
- If you are a current or past breast cancer patient or had or will have surgery involving lymph nodes in your armpit, ask to receive the vaccine in the arm opposite of your cancer site or surgery. This will help support your immune response and lessen lymph node enlargement. Enlarged lymph nodes can falsely affect cancer screening and diagnostic imaging results up to 6 weeks after vaccination.
- The vaccines are safe for patients in treatment but will likely be more effective if timed in coordination with the treatment schedule.
- Patients who have recently had surgery should wait for 2 weeks after their surgery date to receive the vaccine.
Lymph node enlargement is a normal temporary reaction to vaccines. Receiving vaccine in your arm can cause swelling of the lymph nodes in your armpit or near your collarbone. Receiving vaccine in your thigh can cause swelling of the lymph nodes in your groin. If you need a diagnostic imaging exam that includes your axillary or other lymph nodes, talk to your doctor to see if it is medically appropriate to delay the exam for 6 to 10 weeks after your COVID-19 vaccination. Your body’s immune response to the vaccine may interfere with your imaging exam.
Be sure to tell your provider, radiologist and the person doing your diagnostic imaging test when and in which arm you received the vaccine. We recommend bringing your vaccination card with you to your appointment to share with them.
To learn more about COVID-19 and vaccines, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) websites. You can search for COVID-19 vaccine availability in your community at Vaccines.gov.
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