Traveling with Cancer

Author: Christina Bach, MBE, LCSW, OSW-C
Last Reviewed: September 21, 2023

Traveling with cancer is possible, it just may take some effort to make sure you are doing it safely and with your health in mind. It helps to be prepared for the “what ifs” that can happen during trips away from home.

What do you need to think about?

  • Where, when, and for how long you can go? Think about how you are going to get there and your treatment schedule.
  • Transportation and what you are able to manage.
  • Think about the climate - altitude, dryness, humidity, cold, heat, even rough seas on a cruise. Having cancer might make it hard to tolerate these changes.
  • Cost needs to be considered. There may be organizations that can provide cancer patients with assistance for trips.
  • Think about who you are traveling with and if they can help with caregiving needs or potential medical issues.
  • Consider travel insurance in case you need to cancel or change your trip.
  • When your trip is planned, share the details of your trip, including your itinerary and contact information for where you are staying, to someone not traveling with you.

Talk to Your Care Team

Your care team can help you plan your trip and what you may need.

  • Think about what medications and supplies you need to take with you.
    • Some countries do not allow you to bring in certain medications, like opiates for pain.
    • Ask a pharmacist or a travel medicine specialist to help you plan for your medications.
    • Make sure you have enough medication and supplies for your trip including a few days before and a few days after your trip.
    • Ask a social worker for help setting up medical equipment at your destination.
  • Your team can also help you plan treatments around your trip schedule to optimize how well you are feeling during your trip.

Talk to Your Insurance Company

  • Talk with your insurance company before you go on your trip. You will want to ask them about:
    • The cost of out-of-network providers, deductibles, and co-pays. They may be able to tell you which providers are in-network where you are traveling.
  • International providers usually do not accept US insurance plans.
  • Medicare is good in all 50 states, but not overseas. You may want to look into travel insurance coverage options if you have Medicare.
  • Medicaid is typically only good in the state you live in. If you are out of state and have Medicaid, you may have no coverage in an emergency.

Prepare Your Travel Health Kit

Having all of your paperwork and supplies in one place will make your trip easier. Things you may want to include are:

  • Medical records including contact information for your healthcare team, medications, treatments, and lab results. These can be saved electronically or you can print paper documents.
  • Contact Information of those not traveling with you and insurance information.
  • Prescribed and over-the-counter medications, including extra if you need them, any medical-related supplies, and a first aid kit.
  • Sunscreen and a product that can help if you do get a sunburn.
  • Antiseptic wipes and antibacterial, alcohol-based hand cleaner.
  • Other helpful items to include: insect repellant, an extra pair of contacts/glasses, water purification tablets, sunglasses, and hats.
  • You may also want to get a medic alert bracelet/pendant to wear.

The planning you do in advance will help you enjoy your trip and cope with any issues along the way.

Resources for More Information

Cancer Goes to the Beach OncoLink Webinars

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