What to Know about Traveling with Cancer

By Meredith Begley,

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Woman at the airport

Having cancer doesn’t mean you can’t visit loved ones and exciting locales this summer. Learn how to make the most of your travels if you’re currently in active treatment.

  • You can minimize the stress of traveling by planning and preparing in advance.
  • Check in with your doctor before you leave.
  • During the trip, listen to your body.
  • After the trip, make a follow-up appointment with your physician.

The temperature is hot, the ice pops are cold, and the vacation you’ve long awaited is just around the bend: Summer is officially here!

The season is ripe for relaxing and recharging, but that can be difficult when facing cancer. The last souvenir you want to take home from your summer vacation is extra stress. If you’re currently in active treatment and have a big trip coming up, heed this advice from Deb Lewis, a social worker at Memorial Sloan Kettering Rockville Centre on Long Island.

Before Your Trip

Check in with Your Doctor: Tell your doctor about your upcoming travels, especially if you’re flying. The changes in air pressure that happen during a flight can affect certain cancer patients, like those with anemia and those requiring oxygen. Your doctor might also have recommendations for preventing blood clots, since air passengers with cancer are especially susceptible to them.

Ask your physician for enough medication for while you’re away, plus extra in case you run out. In addition, check if your doctor can provide any referrals to medical care in the area you’re visiting.

Cancer and its treatments may weaken your immune system by causing a drop in the number of white blood cells made in the bone marrow. Your doctor might want to start you on antibiotics before you leave to prepare your body for any foreign bacteria it may encounter on the airplane and at your destination.

Contact the Airline: Call in advance to make any special arrangements, such as a wheelchair at the gate, an attendant to help you with your bags, or priority boarding.

Develop a Plan: If something comes up during your trip, you’ll want to be prepared. Keep your doctor’s phone number and that of a nearby pharmacy at the ready. Bring documentation of your cancer and treatment that clears you to fly, and consider wearing a medical alert bracelet. If you’re visiting a foreign country, check your insurance coverage before you leave. “If possible, designate a reliable travel companion — it can make unexpected circumstances less stressful,” Ms. Lewis says.

Consider Travel Insurance: In case you fall ill or something else prevents you from traveling, you may be able to get a refund or reschedule your trip if it’s insured.

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During the Trip

Play It By Ear: No sightseeing excursion is as important as your health and well-being. It’s OK to cancel plans so that you can rest.

Cover Up: Some cancer treatments may make you especially sensitive to the sun. Wear protective clothing and sunscreen, even if you’re not on the beach or by the pool.

Stick to Routines Where Possible: Eat well-balanced meals, stay hydrated, and make time for sleep.

Keep a Journal: Write down any non-urgent medical issues you face while you’re away and bring them to your doctor when you arrive home.

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After the Trip

Get Back in the Swing: Make an appointment with your doctor as soon as you’re back.

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