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Traveling With Cancer
Before You Travel
Checking With Your Doctor
Choosing Your Destination
- If you are undergoing radiation or chemotherapy, avoid sun-intensive locations, as certain treatments can make the skin highly sensitive to sunlight. Check with your doctor about precautions you should take when exposed to the sun.
- If your treatment has resulted in severe anemia, check with your doctor before flying or visiting high-altitude locations.
Researching Important Numbers
Getting Medical Documentation
- A letter from your doctor on hospital stationary describing your diagnosis and treatment plan
- A recent prescription signed by your doctor in case you need a refill
- Copies of your most recent blood tests and lab test results
- Contact information of your doctor (name, address, emergency number, and office phone and fax number)
Packing Your Medications
- Keep your medicine in the original prescription bottles, which includes the prescription date, pharmacy, and physician name.
- Bring an ample supply of your primary medicines, as well as any necessary medicines to treat side effects.
- Before traveling, discuss with your doctor whether you need to take long-term antibiotic therapy to protect you from bacterial infection, such as diarrhea, which can seriously affect your health.
- Keep a list of all your medicines, including dosages and dosing schedules, and any drug allergies. If you are traveling with a companion, provide him with a copy.
Checking Your Health Insurance
- Before you leave, check with your health insurance company to determine whether your plan will cover health costs incurred while traveling. If not, you should purchase travel health insurance.
- You may also want to consider purchasing emergency medical evacuation insurance. If you have a medical emergency, the costs of obtaining an emergency flight or ambulance may be expensive, and services may need to be paid in cash.
In the Air
On the Ground
- Avoid infections, which put stress on your immune system. Drink only bottled water, and eat only hot, well-cooked foods prepared in clean, sanitary facilities. You may want to consider bringing along meal-replacement drinks or snacks.
- If you have lymphoma , you are at a higher risk for developing listeriosis, an illness caused by food contaminated with listeria bacteria. Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, deli meats, and any food that may not be cooked properly.
- Know and respect your body’s limits. Your treatment may make you tired, weak, or nauseous, so do not overschedule your day. Consider traveling with a companion who makes you feel comfortable and is willing to help out when you need it.
When Traveling for Treatment
- Corporate Angel Network —This organization provides free airline transportation on unused corporate seats to people who are traveling for cancer treatment.
- American Cancer Society (ACS) —In 31 US cities, the ACS has Hope Lodges. These lodges provide free, private rooms to patients and their families.
American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org/
National Cancer Institute http://www.nci.nih.gov/
Canadian Cancer Society http://www.cancer.ca/
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/
Avery RK. Immunization in adult immunocompromised patients: which to use, and which to avoid. Cleve Clin J Med. 2001;68:337-348.
Corporate Angel Network. Corporate Angel Network website. Available at: http://www.corpangelnetwork.org/. Accessed December 27, 2012.
Deep vein thrombosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated December 26, 2012. Accessed December 27, 2012.
Hope Lodge. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/treatment/supportprogramsservices/hopelodge/index. Accessed December 27, 2012.
Eat Right and Stay Active While Traveling. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/news/features/eat-right-and-stay-active-while-traveling. Updated December 12, 2012. Accessed December 27, 2012.
Joe's House. Joe's House website. Available at: http://joeshouse.org/. Accessed December 27, 2012.
Literiosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated July 31, 2012. Accessed December 27, 2012.
Perdue C, Noble S. Foreign Travel for Advanced Cancer Patients: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. Postgrad Med J. 2007;83(981):437-444.
Transportation Security Administration website. Available at: http://www.tsa.gov/. Accessed December 27, 2012.
Traveling with Cancer. American Society of Clinical Oncology website. Available at: http://www.cancer.net/all-about-cancer/cancernet-feature-articles/quality-life/traveling-cancer. Updated April 20, 2012. Accessed December 27, 2012.
Traveling with Cancer. Cancer Treatment Centers of America website. Available at: http://www.cancercenter.com/newsletters/may%5F2009%5Fnewsletter.cfm. Updated May 2009. Accessed December 27, 2012.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 12/2012
- Update Date: 12/27/2012