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There are things you can do to prepare if you are travelling with a medical conditions.
If you have a weak immune system| due to leukaemia|, lymphoma| or recent cancer treatment|, you may need to take a supply of antibiotics with you. You can get a prescription from your GP.
In England, anyone being treated for cancer can apply for an exemption certificate. You can also apply if you have finished treatment but need medication for the ongoing effects of cancer or its treatment. You can apply for this by collecting form FP92A from your GP’s surgery or oncology clinic. This certificate entitles you to free prescriptions.
In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, prescriptions are free for everyone.
Some people with cancer may be advised not to travel by air under particular circumstances, as oxygen levels and air pressures change at high altitudes. You may be advised not to fly if you:
Travelling, especially flying, can increase the risk of developing a blood clot. Some people with cancer have a higher risk of developing a blood clot (deep vein thrombosis or DVT). There are a number of possible reasons for this.
People with cancer often have slightly higher numbers of cells in their blood that help it clot (platelets). People with cancer may also have slightly higher amounts of clotting factors. Clotting factors are proteins that are produced naturally in the body and work with the platelets to form blood clots and prevent bleeding. People with cancer also sometimes have lower levels of natural blood thinning proteins (anticoagulants), especially if the cancer affects the liver.
The risk of developing a blood clot is higher in people with particular types of cancer. Some types of lung|, stomach| or bowel| cancers produce a substance called mucin, which can raise the risk of clots. People with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)| or cancers of the pancreas|, ovary| or lining of the womb| have a slightly raised risk too.
Some cancer treatments can increase the risk of blood clots. Some examples of this are certain types of hormonal therapy|, such as tamoxifen| for breast cancer and Stilboestrol® for prostate cancer.
If you’re worried that you may be at risk of developing a blood clot when you travel, it’s best to discuss this with your cancer specialist. They can advise on whether you need to have treatment that can help prevent blood clots.
People with lymphoedema| (swelling of a part of the body) may find that travelling temporarily makes it worse. This is thought to be due to low cabin pressure, poorer air quality and keeping still for long periods during the journey.
You can get a leaflet with more detailed information about travel and lymphoedema from the Lymphoedema Support Network|.
Content last reviewed: 1 October 2011
Next planned review: 2013
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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