Traveling while undergoing cancer treatment

Baird traveling with cancer

The summer travel season is upon us, and many are planning vacation time to beaches, or the mountains, or destinations beyond with family and friends. If you’re undergoing cancer treatment, it’s no different; you need time to recharge from the day-to-day stresses of life, and especially your medical condition. When undergoing cancer treatment, there are a few extra precautions and considerations for the traveler, but that shouldn’t stop you from traveling or enjoying a vacation away from home. Careful planning can ensure you have a great – yet safe – experience.

First, get the OK from your medical team before making any travel plans. You’ll want to talk about the location, how you plan to get there, and how close you’ll be to a medical facility in the event of an emergency. Depending on your condition, proximity of a treatment center may factor in on your vacation destination. It’s important to include family members or other travel companions in these conversations so they can be informed and feel comfortable about traveling with you.

Secondly, consider how you’re going to get there. Some people with cancer may not be able to travel by plane because of the changes in oxygen levels and air pressure that occur during the flight. Changes in air pressure can sometimes cause swelling in your extremities, which could be problematic for a person with cancer. Also, sitting for long periods of time can put anyone at risk for a blood clot, but it’s even more of a concern for someone with cancer. Also, if you’re receiving chemotherapy, your immune system is compromised, making traveling through airports and sitting in crowded planes a risky endeavor.

If you are well enough to travel by plane, there are a few things to keep in mind. Some forms of radiation used for radiological exams and treatment may trigger airport radiation detectors. Some chemicals used may linger in the body for up to 3 months. If you plan to fly after such an exam or treatment, ask your doctor for a letter that identifies the procedure, the type and amount of radioactive material used, the date of the procedure, and the likely duration of detectable radioactivity. Be sure to carry this letter with you when you travel.

When booking your flight – plan ahead so that you can have seats with extra legroom if you need it, or ensure that your travel companion can be seated next to you. Also, notify the airline in advance if you think you may need oxygen.

Research your destination and locate a cancer center, and emergency center far ahead of time, just in case something goes wrong. If those aren’t available, (if you’re on a cruise, for example), notify the staff where you’re staying of your condition to help facilitate their cooperation in the event of an emergency.

Check your insurance policy to see if treatment away from your normal care center is included. You may want to consider a short-term travelers policy for additional piece of mind.

Make sure you have written documentation for on your condition, treatment regimen, and medications, and keep it with you. This is also important if you have an IV port or other internal device so you have documents to show security screeners. You also might consider getting a medical alert bracelet. If you require syringes for medication or portable oxygen tanks, you may need a note or form signed by your doctor for these items to be allowed on a plane.

When planning, keep in mind that certain destinations require vaccinations prior to entry. Speak with your physician about whether or not this is something your body will tolerate with other medications you are on, or with a weakened immune system.

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, take it easy and enjoy the moment. Don’t overdo sightseeing or shopping excursions and listen to your body when it’s telling you it needs rest. Relax – and enjoy!

Safe sun tips for outdoor lovers

Baird Outdoor lovers

A few weeks back, we wrote about minimizing skin cancer risks. These were great basic tips for everyone. But what if you’re someone who truly lives to be outdoors – hiking, running, kayaking, skiing, ice fishing – all of it? Scorching sun? No problem. Below freezing? Bring it. How do you enjoy all the outdoor activities you love, while still protecting your skin?

Here’s the obvious first answer – sunscreen. Apply early, liberally and often. If you’re going to be in the water, use one with a higher water resistance.

Beyond that, remember to wear sunglasses. The sun can do damage to your eyes as well as your skin. Wearing sunglasses helps protect your eyes from the sun’s damaging rays, and also the sensitive skin around your eyes. Choose sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays. Sunglasses aren’t just for sunny days either, remember to wear them on overcast days, especially any time you’re on or near the water to protect your eyes from reflected light.

Lightweight, long sleeved fabrics, also provide great protection from the sun. Also gaining popularity are fabrics and outdoor clothing with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating. A UPF rating is specifically for apparel, and like sunscreen’s SPF rating, the higher the UPF rating, the more effective the garment is in protecting you from the sun. Many manufacturers are catering to the sports enthusiast market with UPF rated clothing for your specific interest. Have a hard time remembering to reapply sunscreen? There are fitness shirts, hats, jackets, swimwear and more that are cool, comfortable and specifically designed for protection from the sun’s harmful rays.

Consider the time of day when planning your outdoor activities. Choose early morning or later in the evening to avoid the hours between 10am and 2pm when the sun’s rays are strongest. Choose shaded areas under awnings or trees if your activity allows, or consider other means of shade (such as a beach umbrella) if it’s possible to set up your own equipment.

Remember that skin protection is not just for warm weather, either. The sun’s reflection off of ice and snow means that everyone from skiers, snowboarders, ice fishermen and sledders also need sunscreen and eye protection.