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Vacations and Cancer

The idea of taking a vacation in parallel with starting a cancer treatment program may seem unorthodox or even ill-advised, it may be a critically important and even necessary part of maintaining a ‘normal’ life. Here are a few tips on how to best navigate such an idea.

First, can I go on vacation during my treatment?

It’s possible. Depending on the treatment schedule, you may be able to get away for a few days during a treatment. Of course, it should be discussed with your oncologist and the care team before setting out on a getaway.

With infusion chemotherapy, a short escape may be possible between treatments but this depends certain factors, such as the risk of aplasia (a drop in white blood cells and associated greater risk of infection), your intended destination, and the activities being considered. Again, this should be discussed with your doctor.

With oral treatment, a vacation is possible with certain precautions (below.) Depending on the duration of treatment, disease symptoms, and treatment tolerance, ‘therapeutic holidays’ where the treatment is briefly interrupted may be possible and even recommended. While not common, in case of prolonged treatment such breaks may be necessary.

How to plan for a vacation

Any vacation or other travel means being prepared. This means: Having enough of any treatment(s) for the length of stay. This is especially important if prescribes an oral anti-tumor therapy. This includes not only specific treatment but also analgesics, anticoagulants, etc. And allow for contingencies such as a potential delay in a return home.

You need copies of prescriptions and important medical files to take with you.

It is always useful to know who to contact at your destination: hospital emergency department, pharmacy, laboratory, nursing office.

What to avoid?

Prevent the risk of skin cancer and any adverse reaction caused by the photosensitivity of many cancer treatments by having adequate sun protection and taking the necessary precautions.

  • - Avoid the hottest hours of the day to reduce exposure risk.
  • - Apply and regularly reapply a high SPF sun screen.
  • - Wear glasses, hat and other appropriate skin coverings.

The presence of an implantable chamber with satisfactory healing does not contraindicate swimming.

Be careful, in some cases, extreme sports and activities such as scuba diving, diving or skydiving are not recommended. Seek advice from your care team before your departure. 

Special considerations for air travel

The risk of developing thrombosis (a blood clot obstructing a vessel, most often in a vein) is greater with for those with cancer.

For any medium or long-haul flight, reduce this this risk by wearing class II compression stockings and by moving about regularly during the flight. If you have had a thrombosis or embolism previously, discuss this with your doctor as it may require the prescription of a preventive anti-coagulation medicine. Finally, if you are already on anti-coagulant treatment, the treatment should not be interrupted. Again, if there is any question, consult your care team.