When not to travel
There are times when it's advised not to travel. Because of changes in pressure or the amount of oxygen in the cabin of the plane, you might not be able to fly if you have had certain treatments.
It is important for anyone with cancer, or who has recently had cancer, to talk to their oncologist. It is recommended that you sign off on your planned trip before you book tickets or make reservations.
If you have or have recently had cancer, it is recommended to check with your doctor that you can fly. Ask your doctor if you have concerns about your fitness for flying.
Some cancer patients—such as patients who have had lung-related problems or recent surgery—might put themselves at risk of complications if they fly. Your doctor can contact the Civil Aviation Authority for advice. You might also need to contact the airline you plan on flying with.
Your doctor may advise you not to fly if you meet the following conditions:
1. If you have had a bone marrow or stem cell transplant in the last 6 to 12 months. Doctors tend to advise against travelling abroad during the first 6 months after a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. Patents usually need to have regular check ups and might need blood transfusions during this time
2. If you have a low level of platelets or a low level of red blood cells in your blood. Platelets are blood cells that help your blood to clot, and cancer treatment can lower this count. Your doctor might advise against flying if this is the case
3. If you have problems with your ears or sinuses
4. If you get breathless after light exercise, such as walking up a flight of stairs
Flying during chemotherapy treatment
If you are undergoing chemotherapy treatment, the best time to travel will depend on the regimen you are on, as well as other factors such as the side effects you might be experiencing. The chemotherapy nadir (when blood counts are at their lowest) will usually occur 10-14 days after an infusion, so your oncologist may recommend travel either earlier or later. During high dose chemotherapy, such as the treatment for some leukemias, air travel might be discouraged for the duration of treatment.
Flying after cancer surgery
Doctor’s will, in general, support you if you want to fly once you are able to get back to normal day to day activities. However, you should always check with your doctor if you have recently had surgery.
If you have recently undergone bowel, chest or brain surgery, it is unlikely your doctor will support you if you want to fly. This is because you might have air trapped in your body, which can expand and increase pressure inside your body. It is usually save to fly 7 to 10 days after surgery, after the air has been re-absorbed.
If you have recently undergone an eye procedure as a result of cancer surgery, you may need to wait 2 to 6 weeks before flying. Speak to your doctor for more information.
For more information, check out our guide to flying after surgery