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Travel and breast cancer

Find out more about travelling when you have breast cancer, including travel insurance, medication, prostheses and vaccinations.

1. Before you book a holiday

Can I travel during breast cancer treatment?

Depending on the treatment you’re having, you may be able to travel during your treatment. However, for others you may be told to wait until treatment is finished.

Below is some general guidance, but it’s best to speak to your treatment team if you’re thinking about booking a holiday.

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy

Depending on your individual treatment, your treatment team may advise you to wait up to four weeks to recover after finishing and before you travel.

Talk to your specialist or breast care nurse about what they would recommend for you.

Hormone therapy, targeted therapy and bisphosphonates

You can usually travel during these treatments. However, you may need to consider how you feel while having treatment, and any side effects you may experience.

People taking the hormone therapy tamoxifen need to be aware of the risk of blood clots and ways to reduce this as long periods of inactivity can increase your risk of developing blood clots. If you’re planning a long-distance plane, car or train journey, you can get advice from your treatment team or GP.

Some targeted therapies may increase your risk of infection, so it’s important to talk to your treatment team about when it’s safe to travel. 

Secondary breast cancer

If you’re having treatment for you may be able to take a treatment break to go on holiday. If you’re thinking about a holiday speak with your treatment team about the options available.

How soon after breast cancer surgery can I travel?

How soon you can travel will be different depending on the type of surgery you’ve had. You will usually need to wait a minimum of 6 weeks after surgery before you can fly. This is because there is an increased risk of blood clots and complications after surgery.

It’s important to check with your treatment team before booking any travel. You may also need to check with the airline on their policy for flying after surgery.  

Where can I get travel insurance?

Find out more about travel insurance and breast cancer.

2. Preparing to travel

What do I need to take with me?

Speak to your treatment team to find out what you need to take on your holiday, such as medications you may need to take with you.

The following tips may help:

  • Doctor’s note explaining your diagnosis and any medications you’re taking
  • Evidence that you are fit to fly. The UK Civil Aviation Authority website has more information about this
  • Any medications, plus extra, that you’re currently taking
  • A record of recent chemotherapy– for example, your ‘red book’ if you have one
  • Antibiotics in case you become unwell while abroad
  • Insect repellent to protect your skin against insect bites and potential infection
  • Compression socks for flying
  • Vaccinations for travelling
  • Details of your travel insurance and contact number

You can also speak to people who have been on holiday during or after breast cancer treatment on our forum.

What vaccinations do I need?

If you’re planning to travel somewhere that requires vaccinations, discuss your plans with your treatment team or GP first.

Live vaccinations 

Live vaccinations are not recommended during chemotherapy or for 6 months afterwards. These vaccinations contain tiny amounts of live virus or bacteria. This is because they could cause serious infections. Live vaccinations include:

  • Measles
  • Rubella
  • Yellow fever
  • Typhoid (tablets)
  • Tuberculosis (BCG)

Inactivated vaccinations

While inactivated vaccines are safe after treatment, they may be less effective if you have a weakened immune system. This may be the case in the first six months after chemotherapy. Check with your treatment team if you need these vaccinations. Inactivated vaccines include:

  • Cholera
  • Diphtheria, tetanus and polio
  • Hepatitis A and B
  • Flu
  • Covid-19
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • Meningococcal meningitis
  • Typhoid (injection)
  • Tick-borne encephalitis
  • Rabies

Risk of lymphoedema

There’s currently no evidence that having injections in your at-risk arm will increase your risk of developing . However, you may prefer to have vaccinations in your other arm.

Can I wear a prosthesis on a plane?

It’s safe to wear your prosthesis on the flight as aircraft cabins are pressurised.

If you prefer to pack your prosthesis in your main luggage, some small air bubbles may appear because the luggage hold is not pressurised. These will disappear shortly after you’re back on the ground and won’t harm your prosthesis.

Read about flying with a breast prosthesis.

Can I fly if I have lymphoedema?

If you have lymphoedema, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a holiday, but you may need to take extra care.

Some tips for flying with lymphoedema:

  • If you’ve been fitted with a compression garment, wear it during your journey especially when flying
  • Wear loose clothing with natural fibres to keep you cool and comfortable
  • Keep your hand baggage light, use a rucksack rather than a shoulder bag or take a lightweight wheeled suitcase
  • Request an aisle seat if possible to allow you to move around more and do any arm exercises needed

If you don’t have lymphoedema you do not need to wear a compression garment while flying.

3. While you’re on holiday

Can I swim on holiday?

After surgery you'll need to wait until your wounds are fully healed. You can discuss swimming with your treatment team.

If you’re having chemotherapy you may also be advised to avoid swimming pools. This is because chemotherapy affects your immune system’s ability to fight infection, which might make you more susceptible to any germs in the water.

You may want to avoid swimming during radiotherapy and shortly afterwards, until any skin reactions have healed. Skin changes from radiotherapy can be irritated by chlorine or chemicals in the pool.

If you do want to go swimming while on holiday, it’s best to discuss it with your treatment team first.

How can I manage fatigue while on holiday?

Going on holiday can be a great way to relax and recharge your batteries if you’ve had breast cancer. Try to plan ahead and check that your travel plans are not too tiring. For example:

  • Avoid accommodation that may be on a hill or has too many stairs, check if they're accessibility-friendly
  • If you're planning activities while abroad, give yourself a day before and after, to rest and relax
  • Drink plenty of fluids (6–8 glasses a day) to keep hydrated. Being dehydrated can make you tired
  • Eat well to keep up your energy levels. If you have lost your appetite then try eating smaller meals more regularly
  • Take a rucksack rather than a handbag as they’re easier to carry, or ask your friends and family for help carrying luggage
  • If you’re flying on a long-haul flight, give yourself time to rest before and after because of jet lag. The NHS website has more information about jet lag
  • If needed, you can request a wheelchair or assistance when boarding a plane, boat, train or coach. The GOV.UK website has information about this

Macmillan have a booklet called Travel and breast cancer that you may find useful. You may also find Cancer Research UK’s travel tips useful.

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Quality assurance

Last reviewed in September 2022. The next planned review begins in September 2024.

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