The Immune System and How Cancer Affects It

The immune system is a network of cells, tissues and organs. This network together helps the body to fight infections and any other diseases. When germs like bacteria or viruses attack, invade and multiply, it is known as infection, and this makes a person sick. Our immune system protects us from the disease by fighting the germs that attack our body. Hence we must protect and keep our immune system healthy.

When a person is affected with cancer, he develops a higher risk of infection. At this time, the cancer cells change the immune system cells; actually, the immune system cells protected our body once but now begin to interfere with its function. Cancer cells get into the bone marrow cells in which blood cells are made.

The Main Parts of the Immune System that Fight Infection are:

  1. White blood cells
  2. Antibodies
  3. The complement system
  4. The lymphatic system
  5. The spleen
  6.  The thymus 
  7. The bone marrow.

Immune System Fights Cancer:

Our immune system protects our body from the harmful effects of the abnormal cells and even from cancer cells. Sometimes the cancer cells escape from getting detected and form tumors. If a tumor is developed the immune system becomes weak, but at times our body’s immune system can fight and destroy cancer from within by re-activating the immune cells. The cancer cells can also protect themselves from being destroyed by the immune system.

Many studies have proved that the best way to fight cancer is to build a robust immune system and allow it to do the work of fighting the cancer. This is known as IMMUNOTHERAPY.

  • Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment, our body’s immune system itself fights the disease.
  • The treatment is also known as Biological Therapy.
  • Our body uses and involves our cells, organs and proteins and fights the illness.
  • Immunotherapy works in different ways- some stop or slow the growth of cancer cells.
  • Some time our immune system- destroy or stop the growth of cancer cells and also from spreading.
  • Immunotherapy can be given separately, or it is combined with other cancer treatments.
  • There are many types of immunotherapy and Cancer Vaccines is one of them.

A CANCER VACCINE: exposes the immune system to a foreign protein, called an antigen

  • Then the immune system identifies and destroys the antigen.
  • There are two types of cancer vaccine prevention and treatment 

Cancer Treatment can Increase Infection Risk:

  • Specific cancer treatments interfere with the way our immune system works, for example, if a person has spleen cancer and the spleen is removed it can be long term damage as the spleen is a part of the immune system.
  • A bone marrow or stem cell transplant treatment high doses are used; this also damages the immune system cells for a long time.


  1. Any major surgery can weaken the immune system.
  2. The wound caused by any surgery can cause infection.
  3. Antibiotics may be given after surgery to protect from infection.


  • Chemo is the most common cause of a weakened immune system in cancer patients who go through this treatment.
  • Chemo can cause a decrease in the number of white blood cells in the blood; this means that the body cannot fight the infections as it should.

This disadvantage may be because of many reasons, like:

  1. Which chemo drug is used, the dosage used.
  2. How often chemo was given.
  3. The past cancer treatments.
  4. The type of cancer.
  5. The person’s age.
  6. The person’s nutritional status.
  7. The stage of cancer.

Rebuild Immune System After Chemotherapy

The common ways to take care of the immune system are:

  1. sufficient rest
  2. eating a healthy diet
  3. exercising regularly and reduce stress
  4. the best way is to follow the doctor’s advice.
  5. symptoms or signs of infection report to the doctor.
  6. all this should be followed until the immune system is back to normal.

Apart from these treatments, Radiation therapy, targeted therapy can also affect the immune system. So people with poor nutrition can weaken the immune system. They need sufficient vitamins, minerals, calories and proteins to strengthen their immune system.

Cancers That Can Be Treated With Immunotherapy:

  1. Bladder cancer
  2. Breast cancer
  3. Brain cancer
  4. Cervical and Ovarian cancers
  5. Colorectal cancer
  6. Head and Neck cancer
  7. Kidney cancer, liver cancer and lung cancer,
  8. Leukemia
  9. Prostate cancer
  10.  Skin cancer 
  11. Lymphoma

The Two Main Parts of the Immune System:


  • People are born with it, and it is active from birth.
  • When a cell changes into an abnormal cell, our immune system surrounds it and kills it inside the immune system cell itself. These cells are known as PHAGOCYTES.


The acquired immune system, along with the innate immune system, produces cells called antibodies that protect the body from abnormal cells. These antibodies protect the patient’s body from the abnormal cells by forming cells called B Lymphocytes.

Boosting of Immune System by Cancer Patients:

  1. Intake of protective drugs for infections or to boost the immune system, this treatment helps the growth of blood cells
  2. Taking flu shots every year or it can be taken two weeks before chemo or in between chemo cycles.
  3. Eating nutritious food with enough calories and nutrients. Wash thoroughly before eating raw fruits and vegetables and cook meat, egg and dairy products well.
  4. Regularly wash hands with soap and warm water, after blowing your nose, spending time in public places and using the washroom.
  5. Do not visit sick people, better to stay away, sharing any items like towels and soap.
  6. Avoid touching animal waste, cages, pens or otherwise wear gloves while handling and wash your hands well.
  7. Any sign of infection report to the treating doctor like fever, cough, sore throat, body pain 
  8. Find out dos and don’ts from the doctor.

Diet to Boost the Immuno System

Foods that boost the immune system

  • citrus fruits
  • red bell peppers
  • broccoli
  • garlic
  • spinach
  • yogurt
  • almonds
  • ginger
  • sunflower seeds
  • turmeric
  • poultry
  • Shellfish

Eating one of these foods is not sufficient to ensure that daily and the required intake is a must. Breakfast eat like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.

Today we are living in the electronic age. Electronics dominate every aspect of human life. The human body is capable of receiving electromagnetic radiation to a certain limit. But we are crossing the required limit which is harmful to our immune system of the body.

We are not aware that the loss of the immune system will lead to multi-organ failure. Though there is no escape from this, one way to protect is by exercise can help in the normal functioning of our immune system. Many are aware but do not follow strictly that less stress, proper sleep, diet and exercise can boost our immune system. In general, Immunotherapy is an important approach to find new cancer treatments.

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