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Immunotherapy: What is it?

Your immune system protects you from illness and foreign substances that can harm you.

Illustration of the immune system
The Immune System - Click to Enlarge

Scientists have found a way to use the body's immune system to help treat or prevent many health problems. This treatment is known as immunotherapy.

Uses of immunotherapy

Immunotherapy may be used to:

  • Treat or manage cancer. Immunotherapy may be used with other treatments to help them work better. Immunotherapy works best to treat early-stage cancers.

  • Prevent cancer. Cancer vaccines help protect against viruses that can cause some cancers. One example is the vaccine for human papillomavirus, or HPV, which causes cervical cancer, as well as other cancers. 

  • Control asthma and allergy symptoms. Immunotherapy shots are often given to people with severe allergies or asthma. the shots start with a small amount of allergen. This encourages the immune system to build up a tolerance to that allergen. This helps the person to be less sensitive to the allergen, which results in fewer symptoms.