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Holidays for People with Cancer

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Please note: We are unable to arrange any specialist cancer care for people while on holiday; however, we are happy to answer any questions you might have about travelling with cancer and arrange the best possible accommodation to suit your needs. Please call us for a friendly chat on 0161 804 9898.

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The following information from Cancer Research UK provides some helpful advice for those travelling with cancer:

Why you may want to travel
People with cancer travel for the same reasons as anyone else - work, visiting family or going on holiday. Going on holiday is a good way to relax and get away from things. Many people like to plan a holiday for the end of their treatment. Others want to go before or even during treatment. Whether it is for work or play, talk to your doctors and nurses to help you plan. They may be able to suggest a good time to go, as well as helping to decide what is realistic for you.

For many people, having cancer won’t affect their ability to travel or where they go. Others may need to make special arrangements. Cancer is many different diseases and two people with the same type of cancer may have different treatments and different needs. Planning is always important but is even more so when you have, or have had, cancer. Planning will make sure things go smoothly so that you can relax and enjoy your trip. This page discusses some of the practical issues you might need to think about.

Issues to consider
Whether you are thinking of going away in the UK or abroad, the first thing to do is to talk to your cancer doctor to check you are fit to travel. What you need to do will depend on where you want to go and how well you are. You should allow plenty of time to make any special arrangements.

Be realistic - places you have been before may not be suitable now. Think about what you need and make sure your destination is suitable. For example, if you tire easily and can’t walk long distances, check that the facilities you need are close to where you are staying.

Travelling and your physical needs
How your physical needs affect your trip will depend on when and where you want to go, as well as on the type of cancer and treatment you’ve had. Your needs may be different if you go away before, rather than during or after, your treatment.

You may need to consider
• Feeling tired after a course of treatment
• Being at more risk of getting an infection
• Being more sensitive to the sun, from either radiotherapy or some cancer drugs
• Feeling sick
• Having diarrhoea
• Coping with physical changes, for example after surgery

None of these possible problems should stop you going away. In fact a break may help you to recover and feel that you are getting back to normal. But it is worth thinking about where it is best to go and what you will need while you are away.

Before you decide when and where to go, think about
• When you finish treatment - is this the best time to go or would you enjoy it more if you left it a month or so?
• Whether to holiday in the UK or abroad?
• Whether you need privacy after coping with a physical change?
• What the climate will be like?
• Whether you need a place to stay that has wheelchair access?

To visit some countries you will need vaccinations before you leave. If you are having certain cancer drugs or have a weakened immune system, you may not be able to have vaccinations. Check with your doctor before you have any.

Your cancer or treatment may affect your journey planning - for example, your risk of infection, or whether you are more prone to blood clots.

Medicines you may need to take If you are taking any medicines, you should plan how much you need to take with you and get those prescriptions before you go. If you are taking any controlled drugs, such as morphine based painkillers, you need to make special arrangements.

Arranging an oxygen supply
If you need oxygen during the day or at night, you will need to make arrangements for a supply where you are staying.

Excerpt from "How cancer and treatment might affect travelling" Cancer Research UK

Travel tips
Tips to help you plan a safe and pleasant journey.

Some things to consider:
• Plan ahead.
• Check with your doctor that you are fit to travel.
• Get travel insurance - take your policy with you.
• Get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if you are travelling in Europe.
• Take your passport and any other proof of identity that you need.
• Sort out any necessary equipment, such as oxygen.
• Sort out travel needs - for example, help getting on and off trains, or early boarding on flights.
• Check any restrictions on the drugs you can take in or out of the country you are visiting.
• Make sure you have enough of your medicines to last the holiday, plus a few days extra.
• If you are taking strong painkillers, check whether you need a licence to take them abroad.
• Carry your medicines in your hand luggage.
• Get a doctor’s letter with details of your cancer, your treatment, and a list of your medicines.
• Protect yourself from the sun.
• Take insect repellent and a basic first aid kit

Excerpt from "Travel Tips" Cancer Research UK

When you should not fly
Most people who have had cancer can travel without problems. But there are times when it is best not to fly because of changes in pressure or the amount of oxygen in the cabin of the plane. Check with your doctor that you can fly. Or contact the medical officer of the airline you are flying with.

You shouldn’t fly if you
• Have had any kind of surgery in the last 10 days, including laparoscopy
• Have had surgery to your bowel or chest in the past 4 weeks
• Have had surgery for a brain tumour in the last few months
• Have a brain tumour and the pressure in your skull (intracranial pressure) could be higher than normal
• Have had high dose chemotherapy or a bone marrow or stem cell transplant in the past 6 to 12 months
• Have a low level of platelets in your blood
• Are breathless
• Are anaemic

After surgery
You should not fly straight after surgery or a laparoscopy because you may have air trapped in your body. When you fly, the air can expand and cause an increase in pressure inside the body. After 10 days, this should have all dissolved away, so you will be able to fly. If you have had surgery very recently though, it is always a good idea to check with your surgeon before planning your trip.

If you’ve had bowel or chest surgery, you will need to wait at least 4 weeks. Do check with your surgeon - 4 weeks is only a guide.

Brain surgery is another special case. The skull is a fixed size, so changes in pressure inside the skull can have serious effects. If you’ve had brain tumour surgery within the past few months, you need to talk to your brain surgeon before you make any definite plans.

After a bone marrow transplant
Immediately after a bone marrow transplant or stem cell transplant, you will be more at risk of picking up an infection. Doctors usually advise against going abroad for the first 6 months. Most people need to have regular check ups and may need blood transfusions during this time. Once your blood counts have returned to normal you will be able to travel. This is usually within a year of your transplant. If you want to travel, talk to your doctor about how safe it is for you to go and ask if you need any vaccinations. There is more about infection risk in our page on taking care of yourself while you are away.

If your platelets are low
Platelets are blood cells that help your blood to clot. Your platelet count can be lowered by cancer treatment. To be safe to fly, your platelet count should be above 40,000 per cubic ml of blood. You will need to check this with your doctor.

Excerpt from "When not to travel" Cancer Research UK

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