Travel insurance and secondary breast cancer

Many people with secondary breast cancer can and do continue to enjoy travelling.

Travel insurance is essential if you’re planning a holiday as it covers cancellation and cutting your holiday short, as well as medical expenses if you need treatment abroad, or if you have to be flown home.

It's not impossible to arrange travel insurance in order for you to take your holiday. However, you will probably have to pay a higher premium because of the greater risk of a claim.

Many insurers are reluctant to cover cancer patients because they are considered more likely to make a claim. Although there are some companies who specialise in providing cover for those with advanced cancer, you may need to try several companies.

In order to get a quote from a company you will need to answer a lot of questions about the cancer diagnosis. This may include information about past and current treatments, the stage of your illness, and any symptoms or side effects you have been experiencing. This is known as medical screening. It may also include information about your prognosis. For some people the experience of going over the information can be distressing.

It can be helpful to have all the relevant information to hand. Some people choose to have a friend or family member with them when looking for travel insurance or to limit the amount of companies called in one day. You may want to consider using an insurance broker to find a suitable insurance provider for you. If you need help with providing any of the information you are asked for your specialist doctor or nurse should be able to provide this.

Here are a few points that can help ensure you have a safe holiday.

  • Your travel insurance will not cover you for any claim relating to your breast cancer or any other pre-existing medical condition if you don’t tell the insurance company about it when you buy the policy. It may be possible to have your breast cancer excluded from your cover in order to receive a cheaper quote. However, it’s always best to try to get full cover and pay the additional premium. If you don’t, any treatment related to your breast cancer will not be covered by the policy and you’ll be liable to pay for this.
  • It may be worthwhile checking the cost of travel insurance before booking your holiday in case the cost of insurance 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 (such as European destinations) than for others (such as the USA).
  • You may need a doctor’s letter confirming that you have had a diagnosis of secondary breast cancer but that you are fit to travel, but be aware that some doctors may charge for this.
  • You might want to find out where the nearest large public hospital to your resort is before you travel as small local tourist facilities are unlikely to have specialist doctors.
  • Make sure you take the contact details of your specialist team and any alert cards relating to your diagnosis and treatment away with you.
  • Always take your insurance documents with you when you travel including your insurer’s 24-hour emergency number.
  • Some companies may not be able to offer you cover if you have only just finished a course of treatment or recently come out of hospital. Most insurers base their decision to offer cover on individual circumstances, so while one person may be offered cover another may not. Always ensure you understand exactly what you are covered for. If you’re in any doubt, ask your insurer to confirm your cover for you.

If you’re 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.

The European Health Insurance Care (EHIC Card) covers short trips in Europe and offers the same level of healthcare that local residents get (The EHIC Card has replaced the paper E111, which is no longer valid). You can apply online and the card is free of charge. Some insurers will waive an excess on medical expenses if travellers use this mutual agreement.

You can apply for an EHIC free of charge at:

  • online
  • via telephone on 0300 330 1350
  • by post with an application form available to download.

If you use an official application process you will normally receive your card within seven days. However, be aware of unofficial websites who may charge you if you apply through them.

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.

Free emergency medical treatment is also available to UK residents in Australia and New Zealand through reciprocal health agreements.

The Living with secondary breast cancer board on our online discussion Forum includes personal experiences of finding travel insurance and making a claim.

Last reviewed: February 2016
Next planned review begins 2018

Let us know what you think

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

Sign up for our newsletter

Related Publication