How Cancer Patients Can Boost Their Immune System

Some cancer patients may find that their immune system has weakened because of chemotherapy and radiation.

This can then leave you more vulnerable to illness and infections.

For cancer patients looking for an immune system booster, we discuss nine science-backed ways to keep your immunity strong during your cancer treatment. 

9 Natural Ways Cancer Patients Can Boost Their Immune System During Treatment

1. Eat A Healthy & Nutritious Diet

If you’re about to start immune checkpoint inhibitors (immunotherapy drugs), you should focus on a range of healthy foods, including a lot of fruits and vegetables. 

Cancer patients can have a weak immunity because of poor nutrition, making them vulnerable to infections. Therefore, it is crucial to maintain a healthy diet rich in vitamins, proteins, and healthy fats to meet your nutritional needs.

Cancer patients can also take the help of a nutritionist to develop an eating plan. Moreover, many foods and drinks contain germs that may cause infections. Therefore, it is important to wash raw vegetables and fruits before eating. 

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2. Sleep Well

An uninterrupted seven hours of sleep per night can make your immune system strong and function well. Substantial evidence shows that a lack of quality sleep can lower your defenses against infections and suppress your immune system. Therefore, it is vital to get quality sleep before, during, and after your cancer treatment. 

All types of cancer and even cancer treatments can be stressful to your immune system and interfere with sleep. 

If you’re experiencing sleeping troubles, try the following steps:

  • Keep your bedroom dark, airy, and quiet.

  • Try to sleep and wake at the same time daily. 

  • Don’t overeat before bedtime. 

3. Observe Proper Hand Hygiene

If you want your immune system to focus on fighting cancer, steer clear of germ-containing places. As cancer treatments weaken your immunity, practicing hand hygiene is essential. 

Make sure you wash your hands with warm water and soap regularly to reduce your chances of getting sick. You should regularly observe good hand hygiene, especially:

  • After using the washroom.

  • Before and after food prep.

  • Before touching your face

  • After interacting with people who are sick

  • Before eating

  • After touching garbage

You can also use alcohol-based hand sanitizer to protect your hands from germs. Showering and bathing regularly are also necessary. 

4. Get Moving

You can help your immune system function well with the positive effects of exercise. You might be wondering if exercising is good for cancer patients. 

Exercise is safe for many people with cancer. You can also talk to your doctor about what type of exercise and how much is suitable for you. 

There will be many types when you’re not recommended to exercise. The following are some situations when it is not a good idea to work out:

  • Low white blood cell count

  • Anemia (low red blood cell count)

  • Ataxia (poor muscle coordination)

  • Extreme fatigue 

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5. Report Symptoms Of Infection As Soon As Possible

If you suspect any of the following symptoms, you should immediately consult your cancer team:

  • Sore throat

  • Nasal congestion

  • Fever and chills

  • Changes in mental status

  • Cough

  • Diarrhea

  • Vomiting

  • Swelling or redness in any part of the body.

Early interventions of these signs will reduce the risk of complications and help you recover faster. 

6. Reduce Stress Levels

Daily stress is very common among cancer patients, and it is not good for their health. Very high levels of stress hormones affect the body’s ability to defend itself and suppress immune function. 

Healthy lifestyle choices can help cancer patients overcome stress to optimize the function of the immune system. 

Stress can also be managed in the following ways:

  • Talking to a mental health professional

  • Listening to relaxing music

  • Reading a book 

  • Massage therapy

7. Avoid Unhealthy Foods And Drinks

There’s no doubt that unhealthy and refined foods can weaken your immune system. Unhealthy fats, refined sugars, processed and charred meats, and alcohol intake are highly restricted for cancer patients undergoing immunotherapy and other treatments. 

Cancer patients looking for an immune system booster are therefore advised to get smart about choosing healthy foods to support their immunity. 

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8. Avoid Contact With People Who Have An Infection

It is important for cancer patients to avoid spending time with people who have flu, fever, or other infections. 

You should:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water every time you touch a person or surface.

  • Avoid spending time in the same room as people with an infection.

  • Avoid sharing products of personal hygiene. 

9. Receive The Flu Vaccine Every Year

Cancer patients are recommended to get an annual flu vaccine to prevent contraction from the flu virus that weakens the immune system. 

Cancer patients should receive the flu vaccine between their chemo cycles or before receiving immune checkpoint inhibitors. Also, it is crucial to talk to your doctor about which vaccines are safe and authorized. 


Your body’s ability to fight off infections and the strength of your immune system can be highly affected by chemotherapy. Taking active steps and modifying your lifestyle can help optimize your immune system during immunotherapy and other treatments. 

Lastly, avoiding contact with sick people is of utmost importance – contracting seasonal flu or bacterial infection is the last thing you need during your cancer treatment.

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  5. Curtis R Chong, Vivian J Park, Bevin Cohen, Michael A Postow, Jedd D Wolchok MK. Safety of Inactivated Influenza Vaccine in Cancer Patients Receiving Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors. Clin Infect Dis 2020;70:193–9.

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