The Immune System and Cancer

The Immune System and Cancer

The Immune System and Cancer Why Can't The Immune System Cure Cancer?

We all know cancer can lead to death, but how many know what happens in cancer? Unlike other diseases, cancer isn’t caused by bacteria or viruses that your immune system can fight. No, cancer is caused by abnormal cells multiplying in your body, which healthy cells cannot fight. Let’s understand this in detail.

Functions Of The Immune System

The immune system is essential to ensure full-proof protection of your body as it prevents all kinds of infection and illness. It works like a shield to protect the body from the ill effects of fungi, bacteria, viruses, and parasites. The immune system is cumulative of all the responses and reactions made by the body towards infection and damaged cells.

The immune system holds paramount importance for cancer patients for the following reasons:

What are the 4 main functions of the immune system?

Your immunity becomes weaker when you have cancer.

The immune system can take a beating for people who have cancer. Cancer can spread in the bone marrow. This bone marrow is vital as it creates blood cells capable of fighting infection. This situation occurs mainly in the case of lymphoma and leukemia, but it can happen for other types of cancer. Cancer acts as an impediment to bone marrow in making considerable blood cells.

Cancer treatments like chemotherapy make the immune system weaker.

Certain types of cancer treatments can also weaken the immune system. It may lead to lesser production of white blood cells by the bone marrow. Certain types of cancer treatments can weaken the immune system of the human body, and they are:

  • Target drugs for cancer
  • Chemotherapy
  • High dose of steroids
  • Radiotherapy
Does cancer or chemo weaken your immune system?

Your immune system can fight cancer cells at an early stage.

Cancer cells are recognized by a few cells of the immune system as abnormal, and they destroy them. But this is not a fool-proof mechanism to cure cancer entirely and get rid of the dreaded disease.

There are specific treatments which make the immune system fight cancer.

The immune system has two main parts, and they are as follows:

  • The inbuilt immune protection right from the time of birth
  • The acquired immunity or the protection that is developed after experiencing certain kinds of diseases

In-Built Immune Protection

What are the main functions of B cells and memory B cells?

In-built immune protection is also termed innate immunity. It is a perfect mechanism that is always prepared to protect the body from infection. They are known for their immediate action, and this in-built protection comes from many reasons. They are as follows:

  • The skin forms a barrier all around the human body.
  • The invading bacteria are trapped in the mucus produced by the inner linings of the lungs and gut.
  • Bacteria from the outside of the lungs are trapped in the hair, moving the mucus.
  • Stomach acids kill bacteria.
  • Helpful bacteria formed in the bowel prevent all other bacteria from taking over.
  • Bacteria is flushed out by urine flow out of the urethra and bladder.
  • Neutrophils are white blood cells that identify and kill bacteria.

However, this protection mechanism endowed naturally can be damaged and overcome by different things.

Specific cancer treatments can also overcome this special protection mechanism. If the number of neutrophils in the body reduces, it is difficult to fight off infection. The mucus and hair-producing cells in the lungs that help remove bacteria can be damaged by radiotherapy.  

Can immune system be built?

Neutrophils

White blood cells have different types to them, and Neutrophils are one of them, which are potent enough to fight off infection.

Some characteristics of Neutrophils are as follows:

  • It moves to that area of the body where there is infection.
  • It gets glued to the invading viruses, bacteria, or fungi.
  • The viruses, bacteria, and fungi get swallowed up by Neutrophils as they are decimated with chemicals.
  • Blood does not have enough Neutrophils, and doctors them as neutropenic.

The number of Neutrophils is lowered in the blood through targeted cancer drugs, chemotherapy, and a few radiotherapy treatments. So, once this treatment is over, there are chances that fungal and bacterial infections might affect you.

During cancer treatment, one must know these essential facts:

  • For people with a lower count of neutrophils, infections can cause severe damage in no time at all.
  • Antibiotics can save the life, and it is advised to visit the hospital in case of fever.
  • Antibiotics can prevent severe infections in cases with a lower blood count.

It is a natural phenomenon to get affected by bugs carried by you only rather than catching it from another person. So, one can easily keep in touch with close ones once the treatment is over.

Should I worry about low neutrophils?

Acquired Immunity

Acquired immunity is the immune protection learned by the body after going through various diseases. It helps the body to learn and identify different kinds of fungus, bacteria, and viruses that it encounters for the first time. The immune system can fight the bug easily once it invades the next time.

The mechanism of vaccination utilizes this phenomenon with the help of this immunity. A limited amount of protein from a particular disease is contained in the vaccine. The immune system can quickly identify the disease once it comes in for another time, and it is not a harmful procedure either.

Small amounts of live viruses and bacteria are used in specific vaccines. Scientists term it a live attenuated vaccine as they have changed the bacteria and virus to produce antibodies by stimulating the antibodies. Live vaccines do not cause infections.

Acquired Immunity

B Cells and T Cells

There are many types of white blood cells, and lymphocytes are one of them that are part of the acquired immune response. Lymphocytes are primarily of two types.

  1. B Cells
  2. T Cells

Our bone marrow produces all our blood cells, including both the B lymphocytes and the Tones. They can help the immune response process after they mature like all other blood cells.

The maturity of B cells happens in the bone marrow, whereas the thymus gland is where T cells attain maturity. After maturity, b and T cells move to the lymph nodes and spleen to effectively fight infection.

Functions Of B Cells

A reaction occurs in B cells while invading viruses and bacteria by creating proteins termed antibodies. The body creates different antibodies for various bugs or germs. These antibodies stick to the virus’s surface and bacteria that have invaded. This is how the invader is marked, and the body can now know that it is dangerous and has to be killed. The damaged cells are also identified and killed by antibodies.

The immune system has memory, and B cells are part of it. B cells produce the suitable antibody and remain ready for the same germ that invades the next time. They can quickly and easily create their antibody.

What are the two main functions of B cells?

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