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Does The Immune System Protect You From Cancer?

The immune system is the system in your body that fights off infection. Immunotherapy is a form of medical treatment that activates your immune system to help fight Cancer. There are many different types of immune cells in your body. Other cells fight different types of Cancer.

Does the Immune System Protect you from Cancer?

The immune system protects the body against illness and infection that bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites can cause. It is a collection of reactions and responses the body makes to damaged cells or diseases. It is sometimes called the immune response.

The immune system can help to fight Cancer. Some immune system cells can recognize cancer cells as abnormal and kill them. But this may not be enough to get rid of cancer altogether. Some treatments aim to use the immune system to fight Cancer. 

There are two main parts of the immune system:

  • The protection we have from birth (built-resistant protection)
  • The security we develop after having certain diseases (acquired immunity)

Why Does the Immune System Kill Cancer?

Cancer avoids detection by the immune system and affects how the immune system works against other illnesses. Blood and bone marrow cancers, including lymphoma and most types of leukaemia, impact the immune system because bone marrow is where immune system cells are made. Specific treatments can also have an impact on cancer patients’ immunity.

What Stops Your Immune System From Killing Cancer Cells?

leukemia cells inside a human blood vessel

Cancer can weaken the immune system by spreading into the bone marrow. The bone marrow makes blood cells that help to fight infection. It often happens in leukaemia or lymphoma but can also occur with other cancers. Cancer can stop the bone marrow from making so many blood cells.

Specific cancer treatments can temporarily weaken the immune system. It is because they can cause a drop in the number of white blood cells made in the bone marrow. Cancer treatments that are more likely to weaken the immune system are:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted cancer drugs
  • Radiotherapy
  • High dose of steroids

Why Doesn’t Immunotherapy Help With Cancer?

  • Immunotherapy holds a lot of promise as a cancer treatment. Still, it can cause some problems.
  • You might have a bad reaction. The area where the medication goes into your body could hurt, itch, swell, turn red, or get sore.
  • There are side effects. Some types of immunotherapy rev up your immune system and make you feel like you have the flu, complete with fever, chills, and fatigue. Others could cause problems like swelling, weight gain from extra fluids, heart palpitations, a stuffy head, and diarrhoea. Most of the time, these ease up after your first treatment.
  • It can harm organs and systems. Some drugs can cause your immune system to attack organs like your heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, or intestines.
  • It isn’t a quick fix. In some cases, immunotherapy takes longer to work than other treatments. Your Cancer may not go away quickly.
  • It doesn’t work for everyone. Immunotherapy works for less than half the people who try it. Many people only have a partial response. It means your tumour could stop growing or get smaller, but it doesn’t go away. Doctors aren’t sure yet why immunotherapy helps only some people.
  • Your body could get used to it. Over time, immunotherapy may stop affecting your cancer cells. It means that even if it works at first, your tumour could start to grow again.

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