Travelling with Cancer

…Written by Alice Springs TMA member : Dr D Mitchell

Special issues regarding flying
  • Cerebral oedema (swelling on the brain) may develop at altitude in people with brain tumours and within 6 weeks of craniotomy. Although there is no specific data to support the practice, anecdotally those patients with a brain tumour who are stable on a steroids, are usually advised to double the dose the day before air travel, and then to drop the dose back once they arrive at their destination.
  • Confusion and psychosis can occur during flights due to hypoxia and many other causes even without brain disease.
  • Intra-abdominal gas expansion can occur during flights within 10 days of bowel surgery or colonoscopy causing pain and threatening wounds. I have experience first hand after laparoscopic surgery… the experience was 8 days post-operatively, and the sensation was that I honestly thought I might explode! It was truly very unpleasant and I had wished at the time that we could have driven home instead of flying.
  • Exacerbation of lymphoedema (swelling of limbs) can occur during and after long air flights. Prophylactic use of compression garments can be useful at times.
  • Expansion of pleural effusion and ascites (fluid in the chest or abdomen) can occur during a flight but rarely develop quickly enough to cause acute symptoms.
  • Low cabin humidity may disturb or distress patients with dry mouths after radiotherapy or from narcotic medication. Hamilton’s Aqua spray may be helpful, FESS saline spray may assist with nasal passages and sucking on something acidic like pineapple juice can assist with dry mouths.
Other issues
  • Insurance: some health insurance providers may not cover people with cancer who travel outside Australia. Discussion regarding travel insurance should occur well before any trips are planned and booked.
  • Extra costs: The patient may need an escort and travel with their own oxygen or other medical equipment.
  • Medications: All prescription medications should be in carry-on luggage and ensure you have an appropriate letter for customs officials simvastatin online. Extra supplies of medications should be carried in case the return trip is delayed.
  • Medical documentation: Patients should carry a detailed letter from their treating doctor (oncologist, GP or other) covering the medical diagnosis, the treatment plan, any allergies, current medications and potential plans for the future in case of a change in condition. What has been discussed about specific interventions and resuscitation orders need to be clear . The timing of prescribed medication may need to account for time zone changes, eg pain medication still needs to be taken regularly.


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