Dr. Sredharan M

Consultant - Surgical Oncology

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Reviewed by

Dr. Sredharan M

Consultant - Surgical Oncology

Manipal Hospitals, Goa

Cancer Vaccines And Their Side Effects: A Comprehensive Guide

Reviewed by:

Dr. Sredharan M

Posted On: Oct 10, 2023

blogs read 6 Min Read

Cancer Vaccine in Goa

Cancer is a condition in which some cells in the body develop uncontrollably and spread to other parts of the body. Cancer can develop practically anywhere in the body, which contains trillions of cells. One of the most promising advancements in the battle against cancer is the development of vaccines for this. Unlike traditional vaccines that prevent infectious diseases, cancer vaccines aim to stimulate the immune system to recognize and attract cancer cells. This breakthrough has brought hope to countless patients and their families. However, just like any other medical intervention, cancer vaccines also have some side effects. 

We navigate this journey, emphasizing the pivotal role of Manipal Hospitals, which extends to locations like Goa, known for its esteemed oncologists and cutting-edge facilities.

How Do Cancer Vaccines Work?

Cancer vaccines, unlike traditional preventive vaccines, do not exclusively target infections. Instead, they aim to activate the immune system of the human body's response against cancer cells. These vaccines primarily work by stimulating the immune system to recognize cancer cells. They typically incorporate antigens-substances present in cancer cells to trigger an immune response. By training the immune system to identify these antigens, the body can mount a focused attack on cancer cells while sparing healthy cells.

Types of Cancer Vaccines

Cancer vaccines can be broadly categorized into several types:

1. Preventive Vaccines

These vaccines are designed to prevent certain types of cancer by targeting infections that are known to cause cancer. For example, the HPV vaccine (cervical cancer vaccine) can prevent cervical cancer by targeting the human papillomavirus, which is linked to this type of cancer.

2. Treatment Vaccines

Also known as therapeutic vaccines, these are administered to individuals who already have cancer. They aim to enhance the body's natural ability to recognize and attack cancer cells. Therapeutic vaccines are personalized, as they are often developed based on the specific antigens present in an individual's cancer cells.

3. Prophylactic Vaccines

These vaccines are designed for individuals at high risk of developing certain cancers due to genetic factors or other predispositions. They aim to boost the immune system's vigilance against potential cancer cells.

4. DNA-Base Vaccines

These advanced vaccines also referred to as third-generation vaccines, introduce DNA encoding specific tumour antigens into the body and fight against bacteria, parasites, viruses and potential cancer cells.

Benefits of Taking Cancer Vaccines

Cancer vaccines operate on the principle of immunotherapy. They stimulate the immune system’s T cells to identify and destroy cancer cells. The benefits of cancer vaccines are multifaceted:

1. Reduced Cancer Risk

Preventive vaccines significantly reduce the risk of developing certain cancers, providing individuals with a proactive defence strategy against these diseases.

2. Enhanced Treatment Efficacy

Therapeutic vaccines complement traditional cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. They boost the immune response, potentially increasing the effectiveness of these treatments.

3. Personalized Approach

Some cancer vaccines are tailored to an individual's unique cancer profile, optimizing the chances of a successful immune response.

4. Minimized Side Effects

Unlike conventional treatments, vaccines often have milder side effects, making them an attractive option for individuals seeking targeted therapy with fewer adverse reactions.

Potential Side Effects

While cancer vaccines offer promising avenues, it's important to acknowledge potential side effects, albeit often milder than those associated with traditional cancer treatments. Common side effects include:

1. Local Reactions

Swelling, redness, or tenderness at the injection site are common and usually subside quickly.

2. Flu-like Symptoms

Some individuals may experience mild fever, and muscle aches, which are temporary and indicate an immune response.

3. Allergic Reactions

Rarely, individuals might experience allergic reactions to vaccine components.

4. Autoimmune Reactions

Therapeutic vaccines that boost the immune response could lead to autoimmune reactions, where the immune system attacks healthy cells. Close monitoring is essential to catch such reactions early.

5. Fatigue

A sign of fatigue is quite normal for many cancer patients, and some cancer vaccines can exacerbate the symptoms temporarily. 


The landscape of cancer vaccines is a testament to the relentless pursuit of progress in oncology. As we contemplate these advancements, institutions like Manipal Hospitals stand as beacons of excellence, catering not only to metropolitan hubs but also extending their reach to places like Goa. With the expertise of dedicated oncologists in Goa and the comprehensive services provided by Manipal Hospitals, the journey toward conquering cancer is fortified.

In the grand tapestry of medical history, cancer vaccines have emerged as a revolutionary thread, weaving hope, resilience, and innovation. As research advances and technologies evolve, we inch closer to a future where cancer's grip on lives loosens, where prevention and treatment merge seamlessly, and where communities stand united in the face of one of humanity's most daunting challenges.


1. Do cancer vaccines have side effects?

Yes, cancer vaccines can have mild side effects like local reactions (pain, swelling), flu-like symptoms (fever, fatigue), or rare allergic reactions. However, their potential benefits in cancer prevention and treatment usually outweigh these temporary effects. Consult your healthcare provider for personalized information before making any decisions about cancer vaccines. You can refer oncologist at Manipal Hospitals in Goa for more details.

2. Are Cancer Vaccines the Future of Oncology?

Absolutely! Cancer vaccines represent an advanced approach that harnesses the body's immune system to target and eliminate cancer cells. While they're not a standalone solution, they offer a promising avenue for more effective and targeted cancer treatment and prevention strategies.

3. Can Cancer Vaccines Really Prevent Cancer?

Yes, they can! Preventive cancer vaccines, like the HPV vaccine, work by targeting infections that can lead to cancer. By preventing these infections, they significantly reduce the risk of developing associated cancers. It's a proactive approach to cancer prevention that's gaining momentum.

4. Who Should Consider Cancer Vaccines?

Individuals at risk due to genetic predisposition, exposure to carcinogens, or pre-existing conditions can benefit from cancer vaccines. Additionally, therapeutic vaccines can enhance treatment for those already diagnosed. You can consult oncologists at Manipal Hospitals in Goa to determine the best course of action.

5. How Do Cancer Vaccines Train Our Immune System?

Cancer vaccines introduce specific antigens from cancer cells to stimulate the immune system. This exposure educates immune cells to recognize and attack these antigens. The immune response then targets cancer cells bearing these antigens, offering a precision-driven approach to treatment.

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