Travel insurance

While there are some companies who specialise in providing cover for people who have had cancer you may experience some difficulty getting travel insurance because of your breast cancer. You might need to try several companies.

Be aware that your travel insurance will not cover you for any claim relating to your breast cancer and its treatment or any other pre-existing medical condition if you don’t inform the insurance company about it when you take out the policy.

Things to remember

  • Check the cost of travel insurance before booking your holiday in case the cost of the insurance premium means you are unable to take the particular trip you want.
  • It can be easier and less expensive to get travel insurance cover for some countries (for example European destinations) than for others (such as the USA and Caribbean).
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get quotes for travel insurance as you may need to call a number of companies before you find suitable cover. Shop around as premiums and terms vary widely. You may find considerable differences in what some insurers are willing to cover you for in comparison to others.
  • You will need to give details of your medical history to get a quote. You’ll be asked questions about your cancer and any other medical conditions you may have. This is known as medical screening. This is necessary for the insurer to work out if they are able to offer you a policy, what will be covered and how much it will cost.
  • Some people find it difficult to talk about their breast cancer diagnosis in this way several times in one day. You might want to consider having a friend or relative with you while you do this and you may want to limit the number of companies you call in one day. Some companies let you medically screen yourself online first. You may like to start with these to get an idea of the type of questions you may be asked.

If you are asked about your cancer and treatment it may help to keep a note of the following:

  • surgery – what type (for example mastectomy or wide local excision)?
  • chemotherapy – do you know which drug combination you were given and when?
  • hormone therapy – which drug are you taking (for example tamoxifen or anastrozole)?
  • radiotherapy – have you had or will you be having this treatment?
  • drugs – what types are you currently taking?
  • You may need a doctor’s letter from either your hospital team or your GP (local doctor) confirming that you have had a diagnosis of breast cancer but that you are fit to travel. Some doctors may charge for this. You may also need a letter from your doctor confirming that it’s safe for you to travel while taking a particular medication.
  • If you’re travelling with someone who has a different policy from you then they too need to tell their travel insurance provider about your cancer or they may not be covered for cancellation or curtailment (cutting a holiday short) due to your illness.
  • Some companies may not be able to offer you cover if you have only just finished a course of treatment or have recently come out of hospital.
  • If you have secondary breast cancer, some insurers may be unable to offer you cover.
  • Most insurers base their decision to offer cover on individual circumstances, so one person may be offered cover while another may not.
  • Check the wording of an insurance policy carefully to make sure it covers your requirements and if there’s something you don’t understand contact the travel insurance provider and ask them to explain it.
  • If you’ve finished your treatment and your cancer is unlikely to cause you to seek medical treatment while you are away, you may consider getting an insurance policy that excludes claims relating to your breast cancer. However, this incurs risks even if travelling in Europe with a European Health Insurance Care (EHIC) card. The EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical healthcare or costs such as being flown back to the UK. Therefore, it’s important to have both an EHIC and a valid travel insurance policy.

Taking this option not only excludes your breast cancer but any claims arising from the breast cancer or its treatment. For example, if you are taking tamoxifen and you have DVT (deep vein thrombosis), this would not be covered as it could be attributed to the tamoxifen you’re taking as part of your breast cancer treatment. Speak to your doctor before considering this option. You must still give your full medical details to the insurance company providing your cover.

  • If you have an existing annual travel insurance policy or free travel insurance (for example, through your bank) you should inform your insurer about your breast cancer diagnosis. 

Suggested insurers

Our online Discussion Forums contain a thread where users recommend insurance companies on the basis of their individual experience.

Macmillan Cancer Support also produces a factsheet which contains a list of companies that may be able to offer you cover.

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

If you are travelling to a country within the European Union (EU) there are mutual health arrangements that you can benefit from if you need medical care while you are on holiday. This will entitle you to free or reduced cost emergency treatment in the EU.

The EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical healthcare or costs such as being flown back to the UK. Therefore, it is important to have both an EHIC and a valid travel insurance policy.

You can apply for an EHIC free of charge:

  • online (delivery within 7 days)
  • via telephone on 0845 606 2030 (delivery within 10 days)
  • by post with an application form available from the Post Office (delivery within 21 days).

Free emergency medical treatment is also available in Medicare hospitals to UK residents in Australia and New Zealand. You need to register for this on arrival in the country. 

Travel insurance and secondary breast cancer

Secondary breast cancer occurs when breast cancer cells spread from the first (primary) tumour in the breast through the lymphatic or blood system to other parts of the body.

Read information on travel insurance and secondary breast cancer.

Last reviewed: June 2013
Next planned review is June 2015

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