Ready, Set, Go! Making Travel Plans When You Have Cancer

  • Sometimes, you just need to get out of town. Whether you’re longing for a break or want to see loved ones, travel can be good for your outlook and your health. If you’re undergoing cancer treatment, getting ready to roam might take a little more preparation. But cancer doesn’t have to prevent you from hitting the road.

    Every cancer is different, of course, and every patient is unique. But in general, leaving home and stepping away from cancer treatment for a few days is usually OK.

    “As an oncologist, we respect a patient’s need to travel and potentially even need to take short breaks from cancer treatment to do so,” said Rishi Jain, MD, MS, DABOM, a medical oncologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center. “While the most important priority is to speak with your treating physician about the risks versus the benefits of breaks for travel, most oncologists would allow for a short one-to-two-week break from cancer treatment so a patient can take an important trip.”

    Five Ways to Get Ready for Your Trip

    1. Talk to your doctor. Your physician understands your treatment and can address your unique situation. He or she will have specific recommendations or restrictions for your travel. It is helpful to go over important information, such as what medications you are taking and cancer treatments you are receiving.
    2. Get your records. A new medical facility won’t always be able to access your medical records. In case you need care while you’re gone, a copy of your records can be a huge help. A copy of the manufacturer’s card for your chemo port, medication pump, or other implanted devices can be especially useful.
    3. Review your medications. Make sure you won’t run out of medications while you’re traveling. Document any medication allergies. And when possible, take your original prescription bottles. The information on those labels can come in handy. Also be sure to pack your medications in a carry-on bag if you’re flying. You don’t want to risk putting them in a checked bag that may be delayed or lost.
    4. Protect yourself. A little common sense can help you protect your health. Try to minimize your exposure to people who are sick. Wash your hands often. If your immune system is low, consider wearing a mask to help protect you from airborne viruses and bacteria. And don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need extra time boarding a plane or a wheelchair to get through an airport.
    5. Move around. Cancer patients have a higher risk of developing blood clots. So, if you’re flying, get up frequently to get the blood flowing. On car rides, make frequent pit stops. Flex your ankles when you’re sitting.

    Bon Voyage!

    Going on an adventure or visiting loved ones can be just what the doctor ordered.

    “Time away can be rejuvenating and help people better face treatment,” Jain said. “We know the importance of traveling and spending time with family in terms of enhancing quality of life. While there’s little data to guide these discussions, careful planning and effective communication between the oncologist and patient can hopefully minimize the risk of travel while maximizing the benefits in terms of the patient’s psychological well-being.”