Brain Cancer and Travel: What You Need to Know

Since you have brain cancer, you may wonder if some of the things you love to do -- like road trips to see family or traveling out of the country -- are OK.

Each person is different, but you may still be able to get out there. While brain cancer can limit where, when, and how you travel, getting away may be good for you. A trip -- whether for work, pleasure, or to go to a clinical trial -- may help you know that you can still do things that you want to do.

But before you book your trip, you’ll want to check on these things.

Can I Drive?

Your doctor will need to decide this for you, based on your type of cancer, where it is in your brain, and your symptoms.

For instance, if you’ve got vision problems or seizures because of your brain cancer, driving may not be an option. Some treatments for brain cancer can also affect your driving skills.

Can I Fly?

Many people are able to travel by plane about 3 months after they finish their brain cancer treatment.

Still, the changes in air pressure could give you headaches during takeoff and landing. They could also make brain swelling more likely.

Because of these possible problems, you should check with your doctor before you book a flight.

Before You Travel

Once you get the go-ahead from your doctor:

Check your calendar. Will your trip mean that you’ll miss a scheduled cancer treatment? Your doctor can check to see if it’s OK if you delay your treatment appointment for a few days. Confirm that as far in advance as you can.

Get your shots. Some countries require vaccinations before you visit. If your doctor says it’s not safe for you to get certain shots, you may need to rethink your trip.

Buy travel insurance. If you’re leaving the U.S., think about buying travel insurance. It will help cover the costs if you need a doctor’s care in another country or have to cut your trip short to get home.

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When you apply for a travel insurance policy, be ready to answer questions about your health, such as your cancer’s type, stage, and treatment.

Travel insurance companies have different guidelines. If one denies you coverage, apply to others.

Get a letter from your doctor. Ask for an official letter that explains your diagnosis, treatment, and the medicines you’re taking. If you have an IV port or medical implant, you may need this to get through airport security. It will also let you bring medical items, like a portable oxygen tank, into places that normally don’t allow them.

If you’re going to a country where English isn’t widely spoken, make a copy of the letter in the native language. You may also want to wear a special medical alert bracelet if you could have seizures.

Arrange medical care ahead of time. Make a list of resources in the area that you’ll visit. Your list should include a doctor, hospital that treats brain cancer, and urgent care center. If you need lab work while you’re away, your doctor can help you figure out where and when to have this done.

During Your Trip

To stay well and curb your stress levels down while you travel:

Keep your medicine with you. Since checked luggage can get lost, put your prescription meds into your carry-on bag on flights. Keep them in their original packages, which show what they are. You may also want to bring extra in case your trip home gets delayed.

Avoid germs. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often.

Protect your skin. Use sunscreen. Many cancer treatments can make you more likely to get a sunburn.

Keep up your energy. Drink plenty of water during the day and carry snacks with you. Eating small meals often will help, too.

Pace yourself. Travel can be tiring for anyone. In a big airport or train station, it’s OK to ask for help getting to your gate or a wheelchair. At your destination, consider what’s realistic for you to do in a day, rest when you need to, and enjoy your trip.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on October 10, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

The Brain Tumour Charity: “Travelling and brain tumours.”

Cancer.net: “Traveling with cancer.”

Cancer Research UK: “Brain tumours and driving.”

Postgraduate Medical Journal: “Foreign travel for advanced cancer patients: a guide for healthcare professionals.”

Brain & Spine Foundation: “Everyday activities following a brain tumour.”

Cancer Research UK: “Changing your chemotherapy plan.”

CancerSupportCommunity.org: “Managing Common Side Effects.”

Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin: “Brain & Spine Tumor FAQs.”

National Comprehensive Cancer Network: “Patient and Caregiver Resources: Traveling with Cancer.”

American Brain Tumor Association: “Depression and Mood Changes.”

Macmillan Cancer Support: “How Cancer Can Affect Travel.”

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