Home » Tumor and Herpes zoster go hand in hand, with cancer the risk of infection increases

Tumor and Herpes zoster go hand in hand, with cancer the risk of infection increases

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Tumor and Herpes zoster go hand in hand, with cancer the risk of infection increases

Like the cat and the fox, cancer and infections go hand in hand. In particular infections from Herpes zostercommonly known as shingles, appear to be particularly frequent among patients, as recently emerged during the event Brainstorming: vaccines and surroundings organized by the Italian Association of Medical Oncology (Aiom) in the Aula Magna of the Monaldi – Aorn dei Colli Hospital in Naples. The fact that cancer patients are often immunocompromised and therefore more fragile with respect to infections is certainly nothing new, but the data released at the conference – for those with cancer the risk of infection is 40% higher than for the healthy population – once again reiterates once the importance of vaccinations for this segment of patients and for those who take care of them. “For our scientific society – he commented Francesco Perronenational president of Aiom – it is a priority to implement vaccinations of cancer patients and theirs caregiver. An effective fight against cancer also involves anti-Sars-CoV-2, anti-flu, anti-pneumococcal and anti-Herpes zoster immunizations. These vaccines, for patients affected by solid tumors, are free, safe, minimally invasive and bring great advantages.”

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The weakening of the immune system

As we were saying, it is not uncommon to observe a weakening of the immune system in cancer patients. The causes are multiple: first of all there is the general deterioration of the organism due to the disease, and then the contribution of chemotherapies, which often have as a side effect, precisely, a partial suppression of the immune system. A slight increase in risk which, it is worth remembering, is in any case acceptable in a cost-benefit balance compared to the reasons why chemotherapy is practiced. The issue, obviously, had been widely discussed during the years of the pandemic: even then the experts had underlined how cancer patients, in themselves, represented a population more exposed to the risk of infection and possible complications, and this degree of greater exposure depends on the type of tumor pathology, the general condition of the person and the therapy to which he or she is subjected. In that case we were talking about Sars-CoV-2 infection, but the same applies to all pathogens: “The cancer patient is in many cases immuno-compromised and therefore ‘fragile’ – Perrone continues – As such, he must be protected from some infections that can be very dangerous. For example, the one caused by Herpes zosterwhich generally tends to heal spontaneously, while in an organism affected by a neoplasm, sometimes very serious consequences can occur”.

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Build a prevention network

New generation vaccines are able to protect up to 97% of cases from the virus that causesHerpes zoster. “It is therefore essential for every person affected by cancer to complete the vaccination cycle and path already foreseen for the general population,” he comments. Sandro Pignata, scientific director of the Campania Oncology Network: “Territorial medicine with general practitioners and the various competent local health authorities must take charge of this task in the current organizational system. Instead, the oncologist is increasingly responsible for recommending the various vaccinations to patients and promoting their administration”. The Campania Oncology Network has promoted a document which aims to standardize access to vaccinations, through the integration of all organizational structures, as happened during Covid, to encourage vaccination in facilities where patients are followed. “Another task of the oncologist must be to be able to raise awareness of patients, family members and caregivers towards this important prevention activity, which is not always given the right importance”, he adds Vincenzo Montesarchiodirector of the Oncology UOC at the Monaldi Aorn dei Colli Hospital in Naples.

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Lifesaving vaccines

Vaccines are fundamental life-saving aids which in recent years have gained a completely unjustified bad reputation. However, the subsequent arrival of the pandemic and its tragic consequences have forced all of us to reflect deeply on the need and opportunities for vaccination prophylaxis, the experts underline. “Specifically, it is estimated that 15% of cancer patients affected by Sars-CoV-2 infection develop the so-called long Covid – concludes Perrone – Even in this case negative effects can occur, especially on therapies. Like Aiom, based on the scientific evidence available to date, we renew the invitation to immunize against Covid and remember that each booster has a validity of approximately 12 months. The same goes for seasonal flu, which affects up to 6 million people in our country every year and for which vaccination rates are still too low. Finally, we also recommend the vaccine against pneumococcus, a very widespread bacterium that can cause various serious diseases such as otitis media, pneumonia, bacteremia or meningitis.”

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