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When not to travel

Coping with cancer

This page tells you why you might not be able to travel after some cancer treatments. There is information about


When you might not be able to fly

Most people who have had cancer can travel without problems. But there are times when it is best not to fly because of changes in pressure or the amount of oxygen in the cabin of the plane. Check with your doctor that you can fly. Or contact the airline you are flying with. You should always get advice before travelling if you


After surgery

If you have had surgery recently, you should check with your surgeon before planning your trip. In general, you will be able to fly once you are well enough to get back to normal day to day activities. You need to contact your airline before your trip if you will need help with your luggage or getting around the airport.

You should not fly straight after bowel, chest or brain surgery because you may have air trapped in your body. When you fly, the air can expand and cause an increase in pressure inside the body. After 10 days, the air should have dissolved away, so you will be able to fly. If you have had keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery, you may be able to fly sooner than this.

For some types of procedures to the eye, you may need to wait about 2 to 6 weeks before you can fly. Your doctor will advise you about this.


After a bone marrow or stem cell transplant

Immediately after a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, you will be more at risk of picking up an infection. Doctors usually advise against going abroad for the first 6 months. Most people need to have regular check ups and may need blood transfusions during this time. Once your blood counts have returned to normal you will be able to travel. This is usually within a year of your transplant. If you want to travel, talk to your doctor about how safe it is for you to go and ask if you need any vaccinations. There is more about infection risk in our page on taking care of yourself while you are away.


If your platelets are low

Platelets are blood cells that help your blood to clot. Your platelet count can be lowered by cancer treatment. To be safe to fly, your platelet count should be above 40,000 per cubic ml of blood. You will need to check this with your doctor.


If you are breathless

There are many causes of breathlessness, some of which may be caused by the cancer itself or your treatment. Due to the air pressure being lower in an aircraft than on the ground, less oxygen is available. This could make your breathing worse. 

Your doctor may be able to treat the cause of your breathlessness before you fly. Or you may be able to fly safely as long as you have extra oxygen to breathe during the flight. Your airline may ask for an additional payment if you need oxygen for your flight. You should check with your doctor or contact the airline for advice.

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Updated: 8 July 2014