Travelling abroad with breast cancer

travel abroad sea beach

If you’re travelling abroad, having breast cancer won’t necessarily affect your arrangements. But planning things in advance can help ensure your trip goes more smoothly.

Travel insurance

Some people have difficulty getting travel insurance after a diagnosis of breast cancer. If you do have problems, it can be frustrating and may make you feel that you’re being penalised for something beyond your control. However, there are some companies that specialise in providing cover for people who’ve had cancer.

Medication

If you’re taking tablets, such as tamoxifen, it’s a good idea to pack more than you’re likely to need in case of travel delays. Carry your medication in your hand luggage so it doesn’t get lost. A summary of your medical details may also be helpful.

Air travel and prostheses

It’s safe to fly with a prosthesis as aircraft cabins are pressurised.

Some airports use body scanners as part of their security procedures and some of these will reveal a prosthesis.

Find out more about flying if you have a prosthesis, including information about body scanners in UK airports.

Radiotherapy and skincare

If you’ve had radiotherapy, the skin in the treated area may be more at risk from the sun. Therefore, make sure this area is covered or apply a high-factor sun cream when you’re out in the sun, even when treatment is finished.

Travel vaccinations

If you’re planning to travel somewhere that requires vaccinations, it’s important to discuss your plans with your specialist team first.

Live vaccinations

Live vaccinations – which contain tiny amounts of live virus or bacteria – are not recommended during chemotherapy or for six months afterwards. This is because they could cause serious infections.

Live vaccinations include:

  • measles
  • rubella
  • yellow fever
  • typhoid (tablets)
  • tuberculosis (BCG).

Inactivated vaccinations

While inactivated vaccines are safe after treatment, they may be less effective if you have a weakened immune system. This may be the case in the first six months after chemotherapy.

Inactivated vaccines include:

  • cholera
  • diphtheria, tetanus and polio
  • hepatitis A and B
  • flu
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • meningococcal meningitis
  • typhoid (injection)
  • tick-borne encephalitis
  • rabies.

Travelling if you have lymphoedema

There’s no reason why having lymphoedema should stop you enjoying holidays, but extra care may be necessary.

  • If you’ve been fitted with a compression garment, wear it during your journey.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothes when travelling.
  • Make sure jewellery or watches aren’t too tight.
  • Use a suitcase on wheels rather than one you carry and ask for help when moving luggage around.
  • Keep your hand baggage light and try to carry it on your back rather than your shoulder.
  • Try not to sit for too long in one position. Take regular breaks if travelling by car or move around if you are travelling by air. Gentle exercises can also be carried out while sitting to promote lymph flow.A high-factor sunscreen applied regularly is essential to prevent sunburn if you are going somewhere hot. Loose cotton clothes with long sleeves will also protect your swollen arm from the sun.
  • Wash your skin after swimming in the sea or in a pool to get rid of the salt from the sea and chemicals from the pool.
  • Use mosquito repellent every day, particularly in the evening and at night. Mosquito bites can become infected and are very uncomfortable.
  • Before you travel, talk to your GP or lymphoedema specialist about taking antibiotics with you (in case you develop an infection in the swollen area).
  • Try to avoid extremes of temperature – getting too hot then too cold, or too cold then too hot.

» Find tips on life beyond breast cancer in BECCA, our free app

Last reviewed: March 2016
Next planned review begins 2018

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Please note that we cannot respond to comments. If you have any questions about breast cancer please contact the Helpline on 0808 800 6000.

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