Travel insurance for cancer patients | Medical travel insurance guide

Cancer Travel Insurance

It is vital to have travel insurance if you are a cancer sufferer because you may have to be brought home, or have treatment abroad, if you become ill. This can cost a lot of money, but your cancer travel insurance will give you complete peace of mind.

You may have had difficulty in finding travel insurance to cover your cancer, however AllClear is a specialist in medical travel insurance and we can provide annual or single trip, cancer travel insurance to worldwide destinations.

In addition to holiday insurance for cancer patients, if you are travelling to a country within Europe, you should always carry a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). You can apply for a card online

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Bob Champion MBE, Grand National Winner 1981, made famous for overcoming his battle against cancer and recovering to win the Grand National. Read his story

Tips for travelling with cancer

Talk to a Medical Professional: They may be able to suggest a good time to go, as well as helping to decide what is realistic for you.

Planning: Start planning at least 4 to 6 weeks before you travel. You may want to travel with a medical summary that includes the following:

  • Diagnosis
  • Recent and ongoing treatment
  • Photocopy of recent chemotherapy/radiotherapy summary
  • Medication
  • Contact details (including family members, General Practitioner, Oncology team)

Destination Decisions:For many, travelling with cancer will have little or no impact on their holiday. However, you should think about the arduousness of the journey and how many stopovers there are, and consider the other tips below.

Holiday Timing: It may often be necessary to advise a delay to the planned journey if you have recently completed, are currently undergoing, or due to start certain treatments e.g. chemotherapy. Do not automatically cancel your holiday, however, as often simple re-arrangements can be made to allow a holiday to take place. Radiotherapy can be planned before the holiday and started on return - this doesn't delay the treatment because there may well be a week or so gap between the planning and start.

Healthcare: You may wish to understand more about the standard and provision of healthcare in the destination country. You could contact the relevant High Commission, Embassy or Consulate. If there is concern that the destination is a country or area lacking in suitable medical facilities, you may want to consider an alternative that has a better standard of healthcare. If the destination is remote (even in a developed country) then healthcare is likely to bemore basic.

Complimentary/Alternative therapies: Be very cautious of any alternative therapies while you are abroad. Some herbal remedies may contain substances that interact with prescribed medication. Check with your cancer specialist before you go.

Flying: Problems specifically related to a patient's cancer are rare. However, there is neither the skill nor the facilities on commercial aircraft to care for seriously ill people for extended periods of time, and airline staff may refuse to carry passengers whom they feel are too unwell. You may want to clarify:

1. If it is possible to check-in or board the plane early
2. Whether a wheelchair could be made available (and if there is a charge for this service)
3. What medical equipment (if any) may be allowed on the aircraft.
4. Some people with cancer, particularly some types of lung, stomach and bowel cancer, have a higher risk of DVT, so consider the length of your flight. See your doctor before you travel and read NHS
tips on preventing flight-related DVT, which include exercises and compression stockings.

Travel Insurance: If you do need healthcare while on holiday, it can work out expensive so make sure you have cancer holiday insurance to cover you. For travel in Europe, make sure you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) This entitles you to reduced cost and sometimes free medical treatment. However, you will need comprehensive cancer holiday insurance cover as well, because an EHIC will not cover all the costs of your treatment. For example, an EHIC doesn't cover the cost of medical transfer back to the UK.

Vaccinations: You may not be able to have the required vaccinations for the intended destination. Live vaccines are best avoided in patients who have a weakened immune system (this includes lymphoma, leukaemia, chemotherapy within previous 6 months; stem cell/bone marrow transplant within previous 6 months). If you’ve had chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, you may have lost your immunity to diseases that you were previously vaccinated against. Therefore, you may need new jabs. Check with your doctor

Medication: If you are taking any cancer medication, you should plan how much you need to take with you and get those prescriptions before you go (make sure you have an extra supply in case you lose any). Certain cancer drugs may leave you susceptible to infection for some weeks after treatment, and you should factor this into your planning.

1. Keep all medications in original packaging
2. Travel with the original prescription
3. Keep a list of all your medicines (including the generic names) and doses in your purse or wallet, just in case you lose any of them or you run out.
4. Find out if you need a letter from your GP explaining to customs officers your need to carry certain medicines, syringes or portable medicine pumps. Some GPs charge for writing a letter, so if you travel frequently, ask them to write it in such a way that it can be used more than once.
5. Check with a pharmacist the availability of a particular medication in the country of destination. It is worth noting that brand names of drugs often differ abroad
6. If you need to keep medicines cool, buy a small cool bag from a pharmacy for the journey. Check whether your room at your destination has a fridge.
7. Travelling across time zones can affect when you take regular medicines. Your doctor or pharmacist can help you plan adjusting the times of your medicines.
8. more info at NHS

Oxygen requirements: If you require long-term oxygen therapy, you should arrange supply at the destination country before you travel. Your UK oxygen provider should be able to arrange for supplementary oxygen to be available at the destination, although there may be a charge. You should obtain details of who to contact at the holiday destination if problems arise regarding the supplementary oxygen supply. Although commercial aircrafts have an emergency oxygen supply, it is intended solely for an emergency. If there is likelihood that you will require supplementary oxygen during the flight, you should discuss needs fully with the airline at the time of booking. The healthcare provision of many major airlines are summarised on the British Lung Foundation website (www.britishlungfoundation.org)

Avoiding diarrhoea and vomiting: - Diarrhoea and vomiting can be debilitating to individuals who are generally in good health, but can be devastating to a patient with advanced cancer.

  • If unsure about the cleanliness of the piped water supply, boil all water before drinking or cleaning teeth. For additional safety, only use bottled water (ensure that the cap is sealed).
  • Avoid ice in drinks where cleanliness is in doubt
  • Avoid unpasteurised milk
  • Avoid foods which have been left lying about or reheated
  • Eat food that is freshly and thoroughly cooked whilst still hot
  • Avoid food that has been exposed to flies

Taking care in the sun: Some patients may be more sensitive to the direct effects of the sun due to chemotherapy regimes or radiotherapy. High-factor sun block (SPF 15 or higher) is recommended, as is the wearing of loose, cotton clothing. (also see careful sun exposure)

(Sources inc: NHS, British Lung Foundation, Lymphoma Association)

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