Travelling Safely with Ovarian Cancer | Staysure™

Travel Tips: Travelling Safely with Ovarian Cancer

Posted on August 9, 2019 by Dr. Claudia Pastides
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Can I go abroad when I have ovarian cancer? How long can I go for? What happens if I’m ill while I’m away? Can I combine a holiday with chemotherapy sessions? These are just some of the common concerns that patients with ovarian cancer tend to ask their doctor.

Here, we share our top tips to help you plan a safe and happy getaway…

Plan your trip well

Speak to your oncologist, cancer nurse and GP, take their advice about when is a good time to go if you have had surgery or chemotherapy. Make sure you don’t have too frantic an itinerary; you may be more tired than you’re used to and need to pace yourself.
Above all, remember it’s not impossible to travel and to have a great time even if you have ovarian cancer.

Precautions you should take

Here are our top 13 tips to travel safely with ovarian cancer:

1 When is it safe to go?

Establish your safest time if you’re having chemotherapy. Ovarian cancer is often treated by cycles of chemo and you may have neutropenia (low white blood cells) and therefore be more prone to infection at different times in your cycle. Your oncologist will be able to help you with this.

2 Remember your EHIC

If you’re traveling abroad, the European Health Insurance Card (while we’re a member of the EU) entitles you to the same treatment as a resident of the European country you’re going to and does cover ongoing health problems. Injections and treatment are also possible on this card. It doesn’t cover being flown home as a medical emergency though.

3 Take your medical summary with you

Make sure you have a copy of your medical summary; your GP can provide you with a print out. Hospital letters can be useful too. Most clinics send you copies automatically after your appointments or you can get these from your surgery. Consider translating any important information into the language of the country you’re going to.

4 Check if you need any vaccinations

Vaccinations need time to create immunity and should be discussed with your practice nurse as soon as you’re planning your trip. If you are having chemo, you are unlikely to be able to have certain vaccines such asMMR or yellow fever.

5 Risk of DVT

Ovarian cancer is associated with a higher risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis. Travel over four hours on a plane or restricted on a coach is riskier. You may be able to have heparin injections to counter this and you should also speak to your oncologist.

6 Check it’s safe to fly

Flights too soon after surgery can cause a change in intra-abdominal pressure, check with your surgeon.

7 Risk of anaemia

Anaemia as a result of chemo can cause shortness of breath. Oxygen levels drop at altitude. If you are considerably anaemic and need oxygen, you can travel but check with your oxygen supplier and your airline.

8 Remember your travel insurance

Make sure you have valid travel insurance for cancer that includes being flown home as a medical emergency in case of illness.

9 Take your antibiotics with you

It may be a good idea to take antibiotics with you if you are immunosuppressed. You may have to get a private prescription for these from your GP if they are specifically for travel.

10 Wear comfortable clothing

During your holiday wear comfortable, loose clothes for travel. The typical ovarian cancer operation scar benefits from loose clothing with elasticated waists, which help lower the risk of DVT. If you’ve had lymph nodes removed, you are at risk of lymphoedema which causes swelling of the legs. Your cancer nurse specialist should be able to help you with special stockings.

11 Keep hydrated

Make sure you keep hydrated as this reduces your risk of deep vein thrombosis when on holiday. Avoid water or ice unless it is bottled and/or you know its source.

12 Always wear shoes

Don’t go barefoot as you may risk cutting your feet or getting an infection. If in doubt, take a thermometer and check your temperature is less than 38c if you’re worried about infection.

13 Always carry your documents

Carry identification (such as a passport), insurance card and brief medical notes around with you. A medic alert bracelet or necklace with a summary on can be useful.

Countries to avoid travelling to with ovarian cancer

You should consider avoiding countries where:

  • The healthcare system is limited or a long journey away
  • The temperature is very hot. This can lead to dehydration and increased DVT risk
  • They have very sunny climes, due to possible photosensitivity from chemotherapy
  • They are a country that is not covered by the EHIC or reciprocal health arrangements such as the USA

How long is safe to travel with ovarian cancer

If you have finished treatment for ovarian cancer and are in remission, there is little to stop you going for as long as you want. If you are having chemo, you may need to time it with your treatment cycles. Or travel within the UK and have treatment pre-arranged at local clinics.

You could go on a world cruise but remember your GP typically gives a maximum of three months’ worth of medication at a time. If you are going for longer than three months, speak to your GP as you may have to get more privately or arrange a special licence with the Home Office, in particular if you need to take large quantities of controlled drugs e.g. morphine.

Travelling with medication

Always take a list of your medication with you. Ask your GP for a print out. If you need injections or liquids, carry a letter from your doctor with you confirming what they are and why you need them. You may be able to take more than 100mls but do check with the airline.

Consider translating labels into the language of the country you’re going to or at the least, make sure you have the generic names, not the UK trade names of the drugs.

Order your medication from your doctor in good time and take a few more days’ worth in case of travel delays. You should also keep any medication in the original packages and put some in your hand luggage in case a bag gets lost.

Does ovarian cancer limit the enjoyment of a holiday?

Planning and being sensible with your destination means that all eventualities have been covered and you can get on with enjoying yourself.

It is really important not to see ovarian cancer as a giant millstone stopping any aspect of normal life. It’s perfectly possible to go away on holiday and most people do.

Dr. Claudia Pastides

Dr Claudia Pastides  Dr Claudia (Carmaciu) Pastides works as a GP in Marylebone. She graduated from University College of London Medical School in 2009 and is a London trained General Practitioner with a special interest in health promotion and health writing. Website – www.DrMummykins.com