Traveling can be enjoyable, but it can also pose some challenges when you’re in the midst of chemotherapy treatment. As long as you follow some precautions, traveling may still be possible.
Talk to your oncologist about your specific plans and whether it’s safe for you to travel away from home and your treatment facility. Be sure to tell your treatment team how you’ll be traveling, how far you’ll be going, and how long you’ll be gone.
Depending on where you plan to go, your oncology team may have different instructions for making sure your health doesn’t become an issue while you’re away. For example, long flights can increase your risk of blood clots, so your oncologist can tell you how to prevent them.
If your traveling outside of the U.S., your oncologist will want to know if there’s a quality medical facility nearby in case of a health emergency. Also, many foreign destinations require travelers get specific vaccinations to enter the country. But certain vaccinations, like the one for yellow fever, are not recommended for “immune-compromised travelers” who have weakened immune systems from cancer and chemotherapy.
Your oncologist may be able to give you a medical waiver for any vaccines that may be harmful for your condition. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more travel information and guidelines.
What to Do Before You Leave
The best way to help ensure your trip is as safe and enjoyable as possible is to carefully plan ahead for any emergencies that may occur:
Plan for medical needs. Research the nearest medical facility to where you’ll be staying and whether your medical insurance will be accepted by the facility. Bring the contact information for your oncology team members in case you need to contact them in an emergency. Also pack all of your medications and supplies, plus some extra, in case your return trip is delayed for some reason.
Have documentation. Ask your doctor to write down the details of your health condition. This should include your cancer diagnosis, treatment medications and doses, and any allergies. Keep this summary with you at all times. This document is also important for patients with IV ports to show to airport security screeners.
Use a carry-on. Lost or delayed luggage is an unfortunate, but common problem of airline travel. Avoid being separated from important medications or medical supplies by packing them in your carry-on luggage instead of your checked baggage. Keep medications in their original pharmacy containers to make it easier for airport security screeners.
Get insurance. It’s a good idea to plan for the possibility that you may not feel well enough to travel when the time comes. Consider buying travel insurance that will reimburse your travel costs if you have to cancel at the last minute. Travel insurance also protects you if your luggage is lost or delayed getting to your destination.
While You’re Away
While it’s certainly nice to get away, staying away from home can be challenging since you may not have all the comforts of home. Here are some ways to make the time away as enjoyable as possible:
- Take plenty of breaks to avoid becoming too fatigued. Business trips and vacations are usually crammed with activities, but be flexible with your plans and cancel a few, if necessary, to get some rest.
- Bring along healthy snacks in case it’s difficult to find meals in your normal diet.
- Wash your hands often, and drink only bottled water without ice if you’re going to a foreign country. Your weakened immune system can put you at risk for travelers’ diarrhea.
- Protect yourself from the sun with sunscreen and protective clothing. Patients on chemotherapy treatment can be especially sensitive to sun exposure.
- Ask for medical help if you have any symptoms of illness.
Remember that your health is most important during your chemotherapy treatment. By working with your treatment team and taking a few steps to plan ahead, you can have peace of mind knowing you’ve done the best to have a safe and pleasurable trip.