Comprised of numerous cells, tissues, proteins, and organs, the immune system is a complicated network that, more often than not, does a stellar job at identifying and removing health threats—including viruses and bacteria. But when it comes to cancer, the immune system isn’t always able to provide the body with the defense it needs to stay healthy. Despite this obstacle, ongoing research on the topic has helped oncologists discover better ways to strengthen immunity and advance cancer treatment to help patients lead longer lives. To help illustrate this complex relationship, here are a few important facts every person should know about their immune system and its cancer-fighting abilities.
Brief Guide to Cancer & the Immune System
Why Can’t the Immune System Defend Against Cancer?
In many cases, the immune system is working hard to identify and eliminate abnormal cells that can contribute to the growth of cancer. However, when the cancer cells replicate fast or become stronger than your natural cells, the immune system is no longer able to fight off the problem effectively.
Since this weakened immune response will only get worse with time, it’s incredibly important for people to keep up with recommended cancer screenings. Through testing, oncologists can detect and treat the disease before it causes extensive damage to the immune system.
Does Having an Autoimmune Disorder Increase Your Risk?
Autoimmune disorders—such as HIV/AIDs, type 1 diabetes, and celiac disease—are conditions that cause the immune system to attack certain parts of the body.
When the body attacks itself, individuals will experience increased inflammation throughout the body. Research suggests that the constant stress of inflammation can potentially create an environment that supports cancer growth.
If you have an autoimmune disorder, work directly with your doctor to determine how it may impact your risk. By sticking to your prescribed treatment plan and completing recommended screenings, individuals with autoimmune disorders can greatly reduce their risk of developing cancer.
How Do Cancer Treatments Support the Immune System for Recovery?
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are two popular treatments designed to kill cancer cells to relieve pressure on the immune system. Since these cancer treatments impact all cells, they will typically lead to a temporary decrease in immune health.
Immunotherapy is another possible treatment that is currently being explored. This treatment involves boosting the immune system—such through the introduction of man-made proteins—or altering its behavior to better respond to cancer threats.
If you have been diagnosed with cancer or are concerned about your risk, Alaska Oncology and Hematology, LLC is equipped to help protect and restore your physical health. Staffed by skilled and experienced oncologists, this Anchorage clinic will provide one-on-one care to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses your specific needs. These cancer treatment options may include immunotherapy, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Visit this practice online to learn more about their capabilities, or call (907) 279-3155 to schedule a consultation with a caring specialist.