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Immunotherapy Frequently Asked Questions

Many of our most frequently asked questions and answers can provide you with more detailed information about immunotherapy.



Q: How does immunotherapy work?

Immunotherapy uses the patient’s own immune system to help fight the cancer. Cancer cells often stay alive because they are able to hide from the immune system. Part of the immune system’s “job” is to recognize the differences between normal cells and cells it thinks are “foreign.” Immunotherapy drugs can leave a mark on cancer cells, which helps the immune system recognize them more easily. The immune system then attacks the “foreign” or cancer cells and leaves the normal cells alone.


Q: What are the side effects of immunotherapy and what should I do?
You should always report any concerns or side effects that bother you to your care team. Side effects that are common with immunotherapy drugs are nausea, fatigue/tiredness, cough, loss of appetite, and skin rash. Because immunotherapy uses the immune system, they can cause the immune system to attack some normal organs in the body. This is rare, but when it happens, more serious problems can occur. These types of side effects are often treated with steroids, such as prednisone. However, if your symptoms are mild, there are some things you can do to treat your symptoms with over-the-counter remedies. Learn more about immunotherapy side effects.