Chemo causes long-term immune system damage in breast cancer patients


A recent study published in Breast Cancer Research found that chemotherapy causes long-term immune system damage, reducing levels of key immune cells in breast cancer patients for at least nine months after treatment, leaving them vulnerable to potentially life-threatening viral and bacterial infections.

The researchers investigated the immune systems of 88 women with breast cancer. Levels of lymphocytes were measured before and at intervals between two weeks and nine months after chemotherapy. However, there was no pre-chemotherapy data for 26 of these participants.

The authors examined circulating lymphocyte subtypes, including B cells, helper T cells, and cytotoxic T cells, like CD4 and CD8.

Levels of all the major types of lymphocytes dropped significantly after chemotherapy. This included T and B cells and natural killer cells, which together defend the body against viral and bacterial infection. The impact of chemotherapy on most lymphocytes was found to be only short-term, with recovery to pre-chemotherapy levels by nine months.

However, chemotherapy had a long-term effect on B cells (which produce antibodies) and helper T cells (which help antibody production), both of which only partially recovered to around 65% of initial levels in the first six months and did not continue to recover after a further three months.

Levels of antibodies against tetanus and pneumococcus (the bacterium that can lead to pneumonia) also were reduced and stayed low even after nine months.

“We observed that chemotherapy caused short-term depletion of all main subtypes of circulating lymphocytes (3-6 months), and prolonged depletion (over 9 months) of B and CD4,” study authors wrote.

Researchers found that an anthracyclines regime was more damaging to B cells and helper T cells initially, but a relatively full recovery was made afterward. On the other hand, anthracyclines followed by taxanes were associated with sustained reductions in levels of immune cells with poor recovery.

Study authors added that these patients may be more prone to viral and bacterial infections, especially in the case of delayed B cell recovery. Similarly, authors said, “viral reactivation is relatively common in breast cancer patients during or shortly after chemotherapy…”

Another interesting finding. Smoking also appeared to slow down the recovery of some immune cells with levels in smokers reaching only half pre-chemotherapy levels after nine months compared to 80% in non-smokers.

If you are recovering from chemo treatments, or just want to avoid getting sick, take these extra precautions.

Wash your hands often, multiple times per day. Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth, unless you’ve washed your hands. Avoid crowded situations. If you can’t avoid people, keeping your nose and mouth covered with a mask will protect you from inhaling airborne viruses and pathogens.
Don’t wear shoes in the house. And wash your hands!

Breast Cancer Research
Eureka Alert
Medical Daily

Beat Cancer Kitchen: Deliciously Simple Plant-Based Anticancer Recipes Get it on Amazon here
Beat Cancer Daily 365 Days of Inspiration, Encouragement, and Action Steps to Survive and Thrive Get it on Amazon here
Chris Beat Cancer: A Comprehensive Plan for Healing Naturally Get it on Amazon here, or anywhere books are sold.

I've interviewed over 70 people who've healed all types and stages of cancer. Check them out here. Or use the search bar to find survivors of specific cancer types.

I also created a coaching program for cancer patients, caregivers, and anyone who is serious about prevention called SQUARE ONE. It contains the step-by-step strategies used by myself and many others who have healed cancer with a holistic approach using nutrition and natural non-toxic therapies.

Watch SQUARE ONE Module 1 for free here


Chris Beat Cancer is ad-free and reader-supported. If you purchase a product through a link on this site I may receive compensation from an affiliate partner (like Amazon). Your support helps fund this blog and my mission so my team and I can continue to do the work that we do. Thank you!

This Post Has 19 Comments

  1. Jim Hogan

    I had a major bowl cancer operation in March 8Th 2014. Refused chemo and went on the Budwig Protocol. I’m glad I did as I’m still cancer free. To God be the glory. Jim Hogan

    1. Mary

      Jim, Congratulations on your choices.
      When chemo kills, they expect it. If you choose homeopathy and die anyway, they blame that choice.

      1. atmosphere1823

        Mary, I totally agree with you…But I have to ask you to please not say “homeopathy” when you mean to say, “Natural remedies”. People confuse homeopathy, which is a very particular type of natural remedy, with general natural remedies, and it’s damaging the ongoing legality of homeopathy. The governmental authorities hear people saying that “homeopathy can be dangerous because such-and-such herb did such-and-such to me”, when the person actually took an HERB and not a homeopathic remedy! The government is tabulating all medical problems brought on by all natural remedies, and people are saying that homeopathy hurt them, and consequently, it’s in danger of being banned. So, we need to be very precise as to what is homeopathy, and what isn’t. Classical homeopathy has nothing to do with the Budwig protocol thath Jim used to beat his cancer! Praise God that he beat his cancer without hurting his immune system with chemo! But he didn’t use homeopathy, and it’s important that we make this vital distinction in our language as we talk about natural remedies and homeopathy. Thanks so much for listening and hopefully for caring about the future of true homeopathy!

    2. Lani

      Yes, to God be ALL the glory! He is our ULTIMATE healer, the HEAD of ALL physicians!

  2. Steph


    I appreciate that you encourage people to think more skeptically about cancer treatment and to do their own research. I think this is important, as there are certainly types and stages of cancer where conventional treatments may hurt more than they help. However, the posts you write often aren’t properly put in context. Individual studies can only be understood in terms of how well they are designed, how well they are supported by other well-designed studies (if any), and how rigorously the publication screens material (some journals are much looser than others). I would like to see more of this analysis every time you post about a new scientific study. It is important that people doing their own research understand these principles about how to assess the credibility of sources.


  3. Mary

    Chemo brain? Remember that one. It is QUITE common.
    It can destroy the liver and/or kidneys and they will not show that as cause of death. It might implicate chemo as causing the death rather than the cancer.

  4. LAURA

    i agree chemo breaks down your immune system that you desperately need to fight cancer.
    I have quit chemo due to its toxicity, what ‘it was poisoning me” the doctors forget that part. I am starting to regain my strength, afterwards, and my oncologist told me that she wanted to put me in hospice after I declined further treatments.HA,HA. My tests (blood) have come back perfect,except two slight areas and I expect perfect next time. Hemoglobin 10.6 but up from the last time and LDH 224: 4 points over normal guidelines but declining from before, On the right path, not dying from chemo or cancer.

    1. Lani

      Praise God! That’s just the way to go. Your timeline is with the Lord, not some statistics. I can’t believe a doctor would tell you to move on to hospice care just for declining chemo tx. But again, your onc was probably mad he/she can’t make money off of you. LOL. Good job. God has the power to heal!!!! Amen!

      1. Laura

        Yes Lani my oncologist was angry, she had to repeatedly tell me how aggressive large cell lymphoma was, here was the deal I had one type the year before and it went totally away but now “transformed” into a more aggressive type, too treatments made me realize it was killing me and I was scheduled for bone marrow transplant after the third treatment, don’t take a rocket scientist to realize that if treatment now was killing me the ultimate chemo fore a transplant would do me in, it wasn’t sickness but unrelentless heighten bl pressure. Lani, thank-you for the encouragement but I believe this juicing and Faith and prayers is overcoming this.

  5. Manuel

    I agree with you. But what is the alternative? I’m with prostate cancer metastasis and I don’t know what to do. Can you inform me a Clinic for treatment with good results in this type of disease?
    Thank you very much in advance.

  6. Evelyn

    I had stage 1 breast cancer and agreed to surgery, chemo and radiation because my brain froze when I was diagnosed. I had 4 chemo treatments in all and after each one I took massive doses of vit C, made Florescence tea,took vit D and went to yoga classes at Gilda’s Club. I was angry with my surgeon, oncologist and radiologist because every question I asked received a patronizing, unsatisfactory I researched the answers myself. The last straw was my last meeting with the oncologist, when she gave me a prescription for an estrogen squashing drug and a bone density test. I was so angry with the answer she gave me to the question I asked that I tore the prescriptions up when she left and have been alternative ever since. This was 8 years ago. I realized from this experience that no one else cares about your body, no one else lives there! I plan to write a blog about the whole experience.

    1. Michelle

      Hi Evelyn, have you started your blog yet? I would love read the information you post.

  7. Deshaun Thomas

    Hello: to whom it may concern,

    I can’t believe this! A great testimony that I must share to all cancer patient in the world, I never believed that there could be any complete cure for lung cancer or any cancer, I saw people’s testimony on blog sites of how Dr. Charles Frisby Cannabis oil brought them back to life again. I had to try it too and you can’t believe that in just few weeks I started using it all my pains stop gradually and I had to leave without the drugs the doctor gave to me. Right now, I can tell you that for past few months, I have not had any pain and the doctor have confirmed that there is no trace of any cancer in my system. Glory be to God for leading me to Dr. Charles. I am so happy as I am sharing this testimony. My advice to you all who think that there is no cure for cancer, that is Not true! Just contact him via (EMAIL: dr****************@gm***.com) and you will be free and free for ever. Try it and you will not regret it because it truly works. One thing I have come to realize is that you never know how true it is until you try. There is no harm in trying. Remember, delay in treatment leads to death.

    Contact EMAIL: dr****************@gm***.com and be free from cancer!

    Direct Email Contact:: dr****************@gm***.com

    Phone Number:: +448726149382

  8. Jackie

    Hi Chris
    I live in Cameroon, Africa and of course there is very little follow up here or believe in alternative treatments. Most people believe everything the doctors say and doctors are almost worshipped here.
    I was diagnosed in 2013 with stage 1 breast cancer. I had a mastectomy done because I had no other choice. My alternative medicine Doctor spoke to me about doing raw for 3 months accompanied by vitamin c injections. I was scared to try it so I went with the surgery. God was so good to me because all went well and he healed me. I remember telling God ” please don’t let me have to need Chemo. He answered. So I am on tamoxifen for 5 years. However, I am beginning to feel like I should stop the tamoxifen and concentrate on my diet. My whole life, I’ve been a health freak. Usually eat more fruits and vegetables than anything else. A year before the diagnosis, I had gone off sugar completely. Didn’t do alcohol, red meat etc. So I believe maybe my cancer was an overdose of fruit or most likely stress. I do go on a vegan diet about three or four times a year for like 21 days to a month. But I am not fully vegan. I also worry about being able to meet all dietary requirements.
    What do you advice me to do? Should I stay on tamoxifen and exercise the plant based diet or should I quit tamoxifen completely? I’ve been on it now for 2 years.

  9. John

    Yes, chemotherapy harms the immune system… nothing new there.

  10. Jerry Pinto

    My wife just diagnosed with breast cancer. Doctors are recommending chemo in 3 weeks to shrink and minimize the tumor. The tumor is about 3 inches. Will raw diet or VitaB17 help?

Comments are closed.