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Travelling with lung cancer

For many people living with lung cancer, going on holiday or travelling will have little or no impact on how well you are. In fact, getting away can help improve your mental health by allowing you to take a break from everyday pressures.

Being diagnosed with lung cancer doesn't have to stop you going on holiday
Being diagnosed with lung cancer doesn’t have to stop you going on holiday

It is important to plan any trips or holidays before your travel. Travelling can be tiring, and the further or longer you travel, the more you could be affected, particularly if your health isn’t good.

You need to speak to your doctor and/or lung cancer nurse specialist before making any travel plans. They can tell you whether your cancer or lung cancer treatment may make travelling unsafe. They can also tell you what you might need to consider when travelling abroad.

If you are taking regular medicines, make sure you have enough to last the whole trip, even if your return is delayed for a couple of days. Some countries limit the amount of drugs that can be taken into the country so be sure to check this before booking.

It is a good idea to carry all medicines, covering letters and licences for controlled drugs in your hand luggage, as customs officers will usually need to see them. Also try and keep medicines in their original packaging so they can be easily identified.

Eileen is living with lung cancer
Eileen has travelled to Nepal and Sri Lanka after being diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer

Before I decided to do any travelling, I ordered Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation’s travel advice booklet and found it invaluable.

Eileen, living (and travelling) with lung cancer

Travel insurance

Getting travel insurance when you have lung cancer can be difficult and expensive. However, there are specialist insurance companies that cover people with cancer.

People on our lung cancer forum have positive experiences with the following providers:

Travelling and breathlessness

When a plane flies at over 30,000ft, cabin pressure is lower than at ground level. This causes oxygen levels in people’s blood to drop. If you don’t get enough oxygen into your blood, you may feel unwell, get a headache and feel sick.

People with lung cancer can get breathless when they fly
People with lung cancer can get breathless when they fly

If you suffer from breathlessness it may be a good idea to take some oxygen with you. Your healthcare team or GP can advise you.

Some medical centres may do a hypoxic challenge (fitness-to-fly) test. The test simulates the reduced oxygen levels that you would normally experience during a flight and helps work out if you would need extra oxygen.

If you do require oxygen, you should speak to the airline before you book your holiday. Each airline has a different policy on carrying oxygen and whether they charge a fee or not. You may also wish to reserve a wheelchair or mobility buggy when arriving at the airport or train station.

Helpful links

Airport guides: www.airportguides.co.uk

A-Z World Airports: www.azworldairports.com

Disability on board: www.disability-onboard.co.uk

Lung cancer and sun safety

Some lung cancer treatments can make your skin more sensitive to sun damage. Ideally use products with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and wear a sun hat. You should also stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day.

Speak to your healthcare team about any extra care you should take if you are travelling to a sunny destination.