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Going on holiday with cancer, with careful planning it is still possible

19 March 2011 10:29

Male cancer sufferer

Male cancer sufferer

A gentle break, a change of scene, new faces and places can be a real pick-me-up if you have suffered from cancer or undergone treatment. Getting away from it all with a loved one will give time to yourselves and memories to cherish.

Firstly, make a realistic assessment of what you are capable of. Think carefully about your destination and how you will get there. A long flight may not be for you because of fatigue, reduced oxygen levels and the risk of swelling and blood clots. But if you keep well hydrated, take gentle exercise and move about it can make any journey easier. Travelling with a companion and or booking assistance such as using a wheelchair at the airport or station, early boarding and a special meal are simple steps that can all help too.

When you have decided on your holiday - the next step is travel insurance. Cancer travel insurance is available from specialist travel insurers. They offer insurance policies for people who are more likely to require medical assistance whilst on holiday. Generic travel insurers are likely to refuse to cover cancer patients or be extremely costly as people needing pre-existing medical condition travel insurance are deemed higher risk.

Do take your time to find the right level of cover and shop around for insurance. Policies will vary in price because of the different medical screening methods used. Some insurers will want your medical history details and pre-existing conditions for the past 12 months whereas others will ask about the past three or five years. Do inform your insurer of anything that may affect your ability to travel. If you are travelling with others, they should also inform their insurer they are travelling with someone with cancer too.

When you are preparing to travel, get specialist advice on vaccinations and their suitability according to the type of cancer you have and treatment you are undergoing. You should get written confirmation from your GP or cancer care specialist that you are fit to travel. They may provide you with a letter to detail your condition and care in case of emergency, and do check out where the nearest medical facilities are at your destination before setting off.

If you are taking medication you should pack extra in case you are away from home longer than you expect or there are travel delays. If you are flying, take a copy of your prescriptions with your medicines in your carry-on bag and show them to airport security when you arrive at check in. If you have any problems ask to see a supervisor. You may need to make special arrangements and obtain a personal licence if you are travelling with a controlled drug such as morphine. For further details go to

When you arrive, take it easy for a few days to rest after travelling and acclimatise to the local surroundings. It's also sensible to watch what you eat and drink when travelling and whilst it's important to keep well hydrated avoid tap water overseas. This includes ice cubes made from tap water.

When you do go out and about, protect yourself from the sun and stay out of the sun entirely when it's at its hottest. You may wish to use an insect repellent to avoid being bitten and the subsequent swelling and discomfort. Carry copies of important documents relating to your health and your travel insurance with you at all times, so you can get appropriate treatment quickly if you need it. Do take similar care in making your way back home too, so your holiday is memorable for all the right reasons.