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How cancer and treatment might affect travelling

Coping with cancer

This page tells you about how cancer and its treatment may affect your travel plans. You can find the following information

 

Why you may want to travel

People with cancer travel for the same reasons as anyone else - work, visiting family or going on holiday. Going on holiday is a good way to relax and get away from things. Many people like to plan a holiday for the end of their treatment. Others want to go before or even during treatment. Whether it is for work or play, talk to your doctors and nurses to help you plan. They may be able to suggest a good time to go, as well as helping to decide what is realistic for you.

For many people, having cancer won’t affect their ability to travel or where they go. Others may need to make special arrangements. Cancer is many different diseases and two people with the same type of cancer may have different treatments and different needs. Planning is always important but is even more so when you have, or have had, cancer. Planning will make sure things go smoothly so that you can relax and enjoy your trip. This page discusses some of the practical issues you might need to think about.

Travelling abroad

 

Issues to consider

Whether you are thinking of going away in the UK or abroad, the first thing to do is to talk to your cancer doctor to check you are fit to travel. What you need to do will depend on where you want to go and how well you are. You should allow plenty of time to make any special arrangements.

Be realistic - places you have been before may not be suitable now. Think about what you need and make sure your destination is suitable. For example, if you tire easily and can’t walk long distances, check that the facilities you need are close to where you are staying.

Many travel companies have medical officers. They can help you decide if you are well enough to travel and if it is practical. They can also arrange early boarding, wheelchairs, special diets and oxygen if you need them. Make sure you are clear about what your travel company will provide. It is worth shopping around as prices can vary.

 

Travelling and your physical needs

How your physical needs affect your trip will depend on when and where you want to go, as well as on the type of cancer and treatment you’ve had. Your needs may be different if you go away before, rather than during or after, your treatment.

You may need to consider

  • Feeling tired after a course of treatment
  • Being at more risk of getting an infection
  • Being more sensitive to the sun, from either radiotherapy or some cancer drugs
  • Feeling sick
  • Having diarrhoea
  • Coping with physical changes, for example after surgery

None of these possible problems should stop you going away. In fact a break may help you to recover and feel that you are getting back to normal. But it is worth thinking about where it is best to go and what you will need while you are away.

There is more information about when not to travel in this section.

Before you decide when and where to go, think about

  • When you finish treatment - is this the best time to go or would you enjoy it more if you left it a month or so?
  • Whether to holiday in the UK or abroad?
  • Whether you need privacy after coping with a physical change?
  • What the climate will be like?
  • Whether you need a place to stay that has wheelchair access?
 

Getting travel insurance

Travel insurance can be more difficult to get when you have had cancer and may take longer to arrange. There are two areas of concern for your insurance company - whether you may have to cancel your trip, or whether you may become ill on holiday.

To cover your fitness to travel, you will usually have to supply a letter from your cancer specialist. You do have to consider emergencies, however unlikely that may seem. It is vital to have travel insurance because you may have to be brought home if you do become ill. This can cost a lot of money but your travel insurance will cover the cost for you.

You are likely to find it more difficult to get insurance for some countries than for others. The USA can be particularly difficult because medical care is so expensive there. If you needed treatment there, the insurance company know that it could cost them a lot of money. There is a lot more about these and other issues in our travel insurance and cancer section.

 

Vaccinations

To visit some countries you will need vaccinations before you leave. If you are having certain cancer drugs or have a weakened immune system, you may not be able to have certain vaccinations. Check with your doctor before you have any. There is information about vaccinations on our page about travelling abroad.

 

Flying

Your cancer or treatment may affect your journey planning - for example, your risk of infection, or whether you are more prone to blood clots. There is more about this on our page about taking care of yourself on your trip.

 

Medicines you may need to take

If you are taking any medicines, you should plan how much you need to take with you and get those prescriptions before you go. If you are taking any controlled drugs, such as morphine based painkillers, you may need to make special arrangements. There is more about this on our page about taking medicines abroad.

 

Arranging an oxygen supply

If you need oxygen during the day or at night, you will need to make arrangements for a supply where you are staying. You also need to consider if you will need oxygen for your journey to and from your holiday destination. There is a separate page about having oxygen on holiday that tells you how to organise this.

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Updated: 27 November 2012