Travel and cancer - Maggie's Centres

Travel and cancer

A diagnosis and treatment for cancer can mean you have to take extra care  of yourself whilst away and plan further ahead when planning a holiday or a trip away from home.

The information on this page will help you to avoid the pitfalls and have a trouble free break.

The diagnosis and treatment of cancer may affect your ability to travel and will mean that travel insurance choices are restricted. However, if you plan ahead it should be possible to avoid many of the problems, allowing you to enjoy your holiday to the full. If you are still having, or have only recently completed your treatment you should discuss your holiday plans with your doctor or clinical nurse specialist.

It can be tempting to arrange a trip  in advance to give you something to look forward to at the end of  treatment. However, be aware that treatment dates may change during the course meaning your finish date is delayed.  Side effects of treatment can continue and in some cases increase for a while after the treatment has stopped. If you are planning a  trip allow some time after your treatment finishes before you leave and check your plans with your hospital team.  

If you are travelling abroad  allow some extra time to prepare. Rules about medicines differ between countries so check for any restrictions before you go. You need to apply for a personal licence in advance to take some medicines abroad including some strong painkillers and some anti anxiety medications. You will also need a letter from your Dr if you are carrying syringes and needles.   

Airlines may require additional documentation  and proof that you are fit to travel so it is always wise to contact them in advance to ask what they need.

Make sure you have enough supplies eg dressings/stoma supplies to last for your journey, it can be an idea to split them into different bags and keep some with any hand luggage in case your luggage gets lost.

To  help overcome language barriers when abroad  It can help to have translated phrases handy that you may need about your cancer or treatment . You can also get cards to discreetly ask for smaller meals  or saying that  you need to use the toilet urgently.

If you are travelling within the UK and are still  having treatment, or worried that you may need to see a doctor,  you can attend an accident and emergency unit.  If you are unwell, you can also register as a temporary resident with a local GP for your stay.

It can help to carry a treatment summary from your Hospital team as well as a list of any medications you take. Always make sure that any health professional you see is aware you  if you are having, or recently received,  treatment or medication  -  even if you don’t think it is related.

Following treatment for cancer  you may be at  greater risk of getting infections.  Some cancer treatments and medicines  may also make your skin more sensitive to the sun and you may need to extra care to avoid sunburn or infections.

When traveling to some countries vaccinations may be recommended - always check with your consultant or specialist nurse before having any vaccinations.

Help with the cost of a holiday 

Some charities also provide holiday grants for people affected by cancer. You can find out more by visiting our Financial help section and looking at the links below

Travel insurance

Arranging travel insurance may be more difficult both during and after treatment for cancer. It is worth shopping around as the cost of policies may vary hugely between insurers. You must give full information about your diagnosis and treatment even if it was a long time ago and you are now feeling well if you fail to do so the  insurer will not pay out if you make a claim

Maggie’s have a list and also signposts below.

European Health insurance card (EHIC)

UK residents are entitled to The European Health Insurance card ( EHIC) It is free (don’t apply via any sites that ask you to pay a fee).  The EHIC allows you to access  to free or discounted state medical care  as if you were a local resident.   It is valid in EU countries and also Norway, Switzerland Liechtenstein and Iceland.  The EHIC is NOT  a replacement for travel insurance so you should still take out travel insurance if you are travelling in Europe.  You should always check that  the service including you  are accessing is not private as the EHIC may not cover the cost. Following Brexit the rules for EHIC may change you can check  the cover it offers on the website. 

112 is the number to call  for emergency services free from anywhere in the EU

What now?

Find out more about travelling with cancer from the blogs and links we have   suggested on this page

If you have any questions or want to talk things over with our professional teams or share experiences with other visitors you are welcome to drop into a Maggie’s Centre or get in touch online via our forums and blogs.

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