Traveling With Cancer

by Jane Ashley

Cancer doesn’t have to be a “bad” travel partner, but if you’re in active cancer treatment, traveling with cancer requires extra planning in the event of the “unexpected.” It’s probably best to postpone an overseas trip or a cruise until after your treatment is over — a medical emergency in these two situations could be catastrophic. A medical evacuation from overseas may cost well over $100,000.00.

Botanical Garden

Talk to your oncologist before planning a vacation. Before committing to a vacation, have a frank talk with your oncologist about the feasibility of travel. The stage of your cancer, your side effects and the frequency of your treatments help determine if it’s feasible for you to plan a vacation trip. Ask if you are at risk for blood clots during flying and the precautions you should take.

Medical records. Assemble a folder with your oncologist’s contact information, including phone numbers. Prepare a list of current medications, including your cancer medications. If you’ve recently had radiation, include their phone number in your records — new side effects can appear as a result of radiation or chemo.

Get all prescriptions filled. Don’t transfer any prescription medication to another bottle or daily pill reminder. Don’t pack your medication in suitcases that will be checked — lost luggage would mean lost medications. Many patients prefer putting all of their medications in a large zip lock bag and carry in a larger purse or tote that never leaves your side.

Medical insurance. Call your insurance company and find out what they cover at your destination and if your copays will be more expensive.

Quiet Vacation

Manufacturer’s card for implantable devices. Make sure that you have your cards for any implantable devices — this includes not only your chemo port, but pacemaker, pain medication pump, insulin pump, spinal stimulator or knee or hip replacement.

Local medical emergency contacts. Plan in advance by searching your destination for the nearest emergency room and cancer treatment center. Check to see if they will be in-network for your insurance.

Contact the airline if you are flying with oxygen to ensure a hassle-free check-in experience. Make arrangements for curb to gate, gate to gate (if connecting) and gate to curb at your destination. It’s best to avoid unforeseen fatigue or a fall.

Insurance card and ID. Don’t forget to have these critical documents in your wallet .

Precautions to Take at your Destination

Most of these are common-sense precautions, but these few simple reminders help ensure that your trip is enjoyable.

Tea By The Ocena

Drink plenty of water. It’s a good idea, even when traveling within the United States, to drink bottled water to avoid a tummy upset. Water sources and water treatment procedures vary from location to location. Some municipal water may have a sulfur smell that could trigger nausea.

Avoid excess alcohol consumption. Enough said — alcohol can cause dehydration that leads to dizziness and nausea. Don’t spoil your trip with “one too many.” Wine may cause diarrhea.

Avoid excessive sun exposure. Wear sunscreen and light-weight long sleeve tops . If you've lost your hair, don’t forget the sunscreen on your head or wear a cap or scarf.

Practice food safety. Wash your hands frequently. Forego buffets. Make prudent food choices.

Pace yourself. Get enough sleep and take a daytime nap to help you feel your best.

The Bottom Line …

Many cancer patients can safely travel during treatment with planning and reasonable precautions. You, your family and your oncologist should discuss the feasibility of a cross-country trip during treatment. A shorter trip, by automobile, might be a better choice for many cancer patients.

Never underestimate the renewing power of a short vacation while you are in treatment.

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