A goal for many people either during a break in their cancer treatment or after treatment has finished, is a holiday or even better – an overseas trip. If you are thinking about this the following tips may be helpful.
- Check with your doctor that you are fit to travel
- Check if you need any vaccinations – don’t have any live vaccines during a course of chemotherapy or for at least 6 months afterwards (this is because your immune system has been weakened).
- Arrange travel insurance – take your policy with you. For information on travel insurance talk to your usual provider or an agent like Special Risk Insurance,
ph 0800 774 757 or The Insurance Boutique ph 021 235 8801
- New Zealanders travelling to Australia or Britain can get emergency medical treatment free of charge. Medical care outside of this will be charged for. You will be charged in any other country unless you have travel insurance
- Check your passport is up to date with at least six months validity
- Plan activities according to your energy levels
- Sort out any equipment such as stoma supplies, prior to travel
- Check with your travel agent or hotels you’re booking if you need any assistance – for example, help with your luggage, or if you need help getting on and off flights or trains
- Check any restrictions on the drugs you can take in or out of the country you are visiting
- Get a doctor’s letter with details of your cancer, your treatment, and a list of your medicines – carry these in your hand luggage along with your medicines in their proper labelled containers. Check with your pharmacist about the temperatures they should be kept at.
- Make sure you have enough of your medicines to last the holiday, plus a few days extra in case there are delays
- If you are taking strong painkillers, check whether you need permission to take them into the country you are visiting
- Take a good sunscreen, sunhat and glasses
- Take insect repellent and a basic first aid kit
- Take the usual care if you are unsure of the quality of the local water supply – drink bottled water – make sure the seal hasn’t been broken and the bottle refilled, only eat food that has been freshly cooked and is still hot, peel fruit, avoid raw vegetables, salad and ice in drinks, take care with ice cream – avoid street sellers
When you might not be able to fly
You may be advised not to fly if you have any of the following (check with your doctor):
- Any kind of surgeryrecently, including keyhole surgery (laparoscopy)
- A bone marrow or stem cell transplant in the past 6 to 12 months
- Have a low level of platelets in your blood
- Get breathless after light exercise, such as walking up a flight of stairs
- (Cancer Research UK)
Lymphoedema (swelling of part of the body)
If you are at risk of lymphoedema, for example if you have had surgery or radiation treatment to lymph nodes, travelling (especially overseas flights or long-distance land travel at high altitudes), may increase the risk.
If you already have lymphoedema, it may become worse for a while.
Things that may help include:
- Talking to your doctor about taking antibiotics with you, in case you get an infection
- Wearing a well-fitting elastic (compression) sleeve or stocking when travelling
- Wearing loose clothing
- Keeping the affected arm or leg raised if possible
- Exercising at least every hour
- Avoiding extremes of temperature – if possible keep cool
- Avoiding sunburn
- Looking after your skin – keep it clean and moisturised
- Avoiding insect bites – use an insect repellent
- Cleaning cuts and grazes with antiseptic and covering them
- Drinking plenty of water
- Not overdoing it when you are away – do the same amount of exercise as you would normally
You may wish to wear a medical alert bracelet to show that you have or are at risk of lymphoedema. This alerts health professionals not to use your affected arm or leg to take your blood pressure, or for blood tests or injections.
Cancer Information Nurse
Adapted from Cancer Research UK