June 13, 2021 by Bethany Rundell
Traveling with Cancer
It is the time of the year when everyone starts thinking about summer and traveling – including cancer survivors. There are more than 13 million people in the United States living with cancer, reports the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program.
Living with cancer is defined as a person who has been diagnosed with cancer or has been recently diagnosed. A person is considered a cancer survivor from the moment their cancer is diagnosed.
Many of these cancer survivors have completed treatment and are being monitored, and many survivors continue to undergo treatments for many years or in some cases, for the rest of their lives.
“Regardless of what phase of treatment a survivor is in, everyone wants and needs to take a vacation”, says Grace Wang, M.D., a medical oncologist affiliated with Baptist Health. “However, it is best to speak with your physician before you make your plans if you are currently in treatment.”
Dr. Wang says traveling with cancer is not impossible — it just takes some extra planning. There are really no hard and fast rules because each cancer patient is unique and has their own special needs.
From a medical standpoint, you should discuss your plans with your physician. Whether you are planning to travel locally or abroad, it is important to ask questions like:Is it safe for me to travel on a plane to a foreign country? What should I do if I get sick? Where should I go?
Plan for the Unexpected
After your physician has approved your trip, call your insurance company to see what medical coverage you have while traveling and carry your insurance card with you at all times. The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers and the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs can assist you before you go.
Be prepared and plan for the unexpected. Make sure that you have all your medications with you, plus an additional supply just in case your return trip should be delayed. If you are going to a foreign country, make sure the medications you are taking are legal in that country. Morphine and codeine, as well as drugs delivered by injection, may be restricted. Calling the embassy or consulate is advisable, and you should ask about emergency medical care as well as hospital locations.
The American Cancer Society recommends that you commit to eating right and staying active while traveling. The organization suggests that you pack healthy snacks, try to avoid fast foods, and exercise.
“Enjoy your trip,” says Dr. Wang, “just make sure that you are healthy enough to travel and follow the travel plan you and your physician have worked out for you”.