Cancer and Travel Precautions

Cancer and Travel Precautions

This is a repost from an article in Carepages:

With proper planning, a cancer patient can travel and manage cancer treatment away from home. Consider these cancer travel tips for families.
By Diane Stresing
Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
Whether the cancer patient is an adult or a child, traveling takes some extra planning, but unless your doctor has ruled it out, taking a trip shouldn’t be impossible. Hard and fast rules about cancer and travel will vary because every cancer patient has unique needs. A cancer patient who is between treatments will have different concerns than the one who has completed all cancer treatment, just as someone who has had recent surgery may have to take precautions that are different than someone whose surgery is in the past.
Cancer and Travel: First Stop — Doctor’s Office
Start planning your trip by discussing any possible travel restrictions with the cancer patient’s medical team. Make sure that your travel dates will not interfere with scheduled chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery. The oncologist can weigh in on the best time for travel in relation to any upcoming cancer treatment.
This is especially true when the cancer patient is a child. Terri Ades, DNP (doctor of nursing practice), the director of cancer information for the American Cancer Society, says that involving a child's oncologist or oncology nurse when making plans for a child with cancer will help you select the trip dates, location, mode of travel, and activities that will work best for the child. For example, taking a child who is immuno-suppressed or at risk for infection on a trip where there are large crowds might not be the best choice. Most cancer patients are also advised to avoid travel to developing countries for the same reason, especially if the patient’s immunity is compromised by chemotherapy, for instance. In some cases, travel may be considered safe, but the doctor may recommend taking prescription antibiotics along on the trip in case the cancer patient contracts an infection.
Some cancer patients are advised to avoid air travel altogether due to the pressure changes that occur during flight and the possible need for supplemental oxygen. Some forms of cancer can increase a patient’s risk for developing blood clots, called deep venous thrombosis or DVT, especially during long airplane or even car trips.
Your doctor may suggest avoiding travel when your blood counts are likely to be low, such as in the weeks following chemotherapy. If you must travel during such a time frame, Gregory Plautz, MD, chairman of pediatric hematology and oncology at Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital in Ohio, urges families to discuss with the child’s doctor ahead of time what likely side effects will occur during the trip. For example, says Dr. Plautz, if the blood counts are likely to drop significantly, the family should know what precautions to take regarding fevers, wearing a protective face mask in airports or other crowded spots, or participating in vigorous recreational activities that might cause bruising or bleeding.
The Cancer and Travel Preparedness List
Proper planning means being prepared to manage cancer treatment or cancer treatment side effects while away from home.

Medication information. Obtain and carry with you a letter from your doctor or pharmacist listing all prescription medications being taken for cancer treatment. This letter should have a description of each drug, including brand and generic names, dosages, number of pills you take each day, and the need for any refills while traveling. If you have a tissue expander or any implanted metal device, such as an intravenous access port, you should also have a letter from your surgeon describing it (in case questions arise at metal detectors and security screenings). Your doctor’s address and telephone number should also be listed. 

If you’re going to a foreign destination, have the medical information translated into the language of that country and learn key foreign words and phrases to describe your cancer treatment in an emergency situation. Leave a copy of all this information plus a detailed itinerary of your trip with a close friend or relative who could fax it to you in an emergency. 

Ensure that your medication is legal in the country you are visiting — this may require several phone calls or correspondence with an embassy or consulate office. Restrictions regarding what you can take out of one country and into another vary greatly. The majority of those restrictions involve controlled substances such as morphine and codeine, as well as drugs that are delivered by injection. 

In addition to planning ahead for scheduled medications, Plautz says families should also discuss with their child’s doctors in advance any potentially needed medications, such as anti-nausea or antibiotic medicines.
Medical care at your destination. Before you leave home, find out where to get emergency medical care, if necessary, at your destination, including the local emergency services, phone numbers, and the number of the local hospital. Ask your doctor if she can recommend the best medical facility for you. Know where you can get prescription refills or replacements at your destination, should your medications or supplies be lost or damaged. If you need oxygen regularly, arrange to have a supply where you are staying. 

If the patient requires an evaluation or a treatment by a doctor while at a travel destination, coordinate the visit in advance, and have contact information for your home doctor in case the doctor at your destination needs to consult with him.
Insurance clearance. Discuss your medical condition with your travel insurer and tour operator, and ask about any restrictions you should consider before booking. Ask your health insurance provider about any limitations or procedures you must follow to use your insurance at your travel destination. Some travel insurance programs may help cover medical expenses while you’re traveling.
Cancer and Travel: Packing Prescriptions
Be especially careful about packing medication. Carrie Strehlau, spokesperson for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, offers these tips for traveling with a child who is undergoing cancer treatment — sound advice for an adult with cancer as well:

Bring more of your child’s medicines than you think you will need, just in case your stay becomes longer than planned.

All medications should be kept in their original, childproof containers.

If traveling by car, do not store medication in the glove compartment or trunk. These areas can become hot and humid, which can alter how well some medicines work.

Keep all medications with you in a carry-on bag when traveling by train, plane, or bus. Your child may need a dose during travel. If your luggage gets lost, you could be without the medication for several days.

Take along a mask for your child. Although wearing a facemask is not always comfortable for children, it is essential for helping keep germs away.

When traveling to a warm climate, remember that certain medications can increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun, and apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.

If your child has a central line, be sure to bring all of the proper materials needed to keep on a consistent cleaning schedule.
Cancer and Travel: Ready for Take-Off
Cancer places additional demands on travelers — these tips will make the trip go more smoothly for everyone:

If the cancer patient is a child, consider his comfort and pleasure during the vacation. Take along a favorite pillow, comfortable caps for a bald head, and toys, games, and music for distraction and relaxation during the trip, says Dr. Ades.

Remember to follow basic guidelines for smart travel. Get any recommended vaccinations before you go, and eat only well-prepared food at reputable establishments once you get there. In any country where water quality is suspect, drink only bottled water, and avoid ice in drinks.

Allow extra time at the airport, in case of delays going through security checks or managing carry-on equipment. Consider other conveniences to ease discomfort. For instance, will a wheelchair at the airport make the trip less exhausting on the patient?
Finally, before you leave, make an appointment with the home-based doctor for a post-travel check-up to discuss any unusual symptoms or discomfort experienced during the trip. You may not need to keep it, but you’ll have peace of mind knowing it’s on the calendar.