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Travel insurance and breast cancer

Here’s what you need to know about getting travel insurance after a diagnosis of primary or secondary breast cancer.

1. Travel insurance after a breast cancer diagnosis

Primary breast cancer

If you’re planning to travel abroad, you may have some difficulty getting travel insurance because of your diagnosis. However, there are some companies who specialise in providing cover for people who are currently having treatment or have had cancer. You may need to try several companies to get suitable cover. Most insurers base their decision to offer cover on individual circumstances, so one person may be offered cover while another may not.

If you do have problems, this can be frustrating and make you feel that you are being penalised for something beyond your control.

Be aware that your travel insurance will not cover you for any claim relating to your breast cancer and its treatment or any other pre-existing medical condition if you don’t inform the insurance company about it when you buy the policy.

Secondary breast cancer

It's possible to arrange travel insurance and many people with secondary breast cancer continue to enjoy travelling. However, you will probably have to pay a higher premium because of the greater risk of a claim.

Some companies may not be able to offer you cover, for example, if you have only just finished a course of treatment or recently come out of hospital. Most insurers base their decision to offer cover on individual circumstances, so while one person may be offered cover another may not. 

2. Finding the right travel insurance

If you have an existing annual travel insurance policy or free travel insurance (for example through your bank) you should inform your insurer about your breast cancer diagnosis. It may change the cost of your insurance and you might want to look at other insurers.

The Money Advice Service and British Insurance Broker’s Association (BIBA) have a travel insurance directory. They help people with pre-existing medical conditions, such as breast cancer, to find travel insurance.

These tips may help you when looking for travel insurance:

Try multiple insurance companies

Many insurers are reluctant to cover cancer patients because they are considered more likely to make a claim. There are some companies who specialise in providing cover for those with cancer that you can try.

Shop around for quotes, premiums and terms, which may vary widely. Allow plenty of time to get quotes as you may need to contact a number of companies before you find suitable cover.

Check the cost before you book your holiday

It may be worthwhile checking the cost of travel insurance before booking your holiday in case the cost of insurance means you are unable to take the particular trip you want. It can be easier and less expensive to get travel insurance cover for some countries (such as European destinations) than for others (such as the USA).

Travelling with other people

If you’re travelling with someone who has a different policy from you then they need to tell their travel insurance provider about your cancer or they may not be covered for cancellation or cutting a holiday short (curtailment) due to your illness.

It may be helpful for the people you are travelling with to be insured on the same policy as you. This means you are all more likely to be covered if you need to make a claim because of your breast cancer.

Get recommendations from other people affected by breast cancer

Visit our online discussion forum to see what people have to say about travel insurance companies based on their own experience of getting cover and making a claim. 

Understand your cover

Always ensure you understand exactly what you are covered for. You may want to ask the following:

  • How much you’re covered for
  • Will you be covered if your trip is cancelled
  • How much excess you need to pay if you make a claim
  • Whether the policy covers you for your cancer diagnosis and treatment
  • If there are any exclusions
  • The contact details for your travel insurance
  • How much the travel insurance policy costs
  • Whether it covers you for the year or one trip

If you’re in any doubt, ask your insurer to confirm your cover for you.

3. Information you need to provide

Medical history

You will need to give details of your medical history (your cancer and other medical conditions) to get a quote. This is known as medical screening. The insurer will use this information to work out if they are able to offer you a policy, what will be covered and how much it will cost. For some people the experience of going over the information can be distressing, even years after diagnosis.

It can be helpful to have all the relevant information to hand. For example:

  • When were you diagnosed?
  • What type of breast cancer did you have?
  • – has the breast cancer spread to other parts of the body?
  • Surgery – what type did you have?
  • Chemotherapy – which drug combination you were given and when?
  • Hormone therapy – which drug are you taking?
  • Radiotherapy – have you had or will you be having this treatment?
  • Targeted (biological) therapy – which drug were you given and when?
  • Other medications – what are you currently taking?

If you have secondary breast cancer, they may ask you about the extent of your breast cancer, when your last scan was and what symptoms you are currently experiencing.

Some people find it difficult to talk about their breast cancer several times in one day. You might want to consider having a friend or relative with you while you do this or limit the number of companies you contact in one day. Some people find it helpful to use an insurance broker to find a suitable insurance provider. A number of companies let you medically screen yourself online first.

If you need help with providing any of the information you are asked for, your treatment team should be able to provide this.

Insurance brokers

The British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) can help you find a qualified insurance broker. Insurance brokers take your details, check and compare insurance options, and then search for providers on your behalf. Visit their website or call 0370 950 1790 to find out more.

Doctor’s letter

You may need a doctor’s letter from either your treatment team or your GP confirming that you have a diagnosis of breast cancer but are fit to travel. Some doctors may charge for this. You may also need a letter from your doctor confirming that it’s safe for you to travel while taking a particular medication. 

Check the policy wording carefully to make sure it covers your requirements. If there’s something you don’t understand you can contact the travel insurance provider and ask them to explain it.

4. Can I exclude breast cancer from my insurance cover?

Primary breast cancer

If you’ve finished treatment and you’re unlikely to seek medical treatment because of your breast cancer while you are away, you may consider an insurance policy that excludes claims relating to your breast cancer.

However, this option not only excludes your breast cancer but also any claims arising from the breast cancer or its treatment. For example, if you are taking tamoxifen as part of your breast cancer treatment and you have a DVT (deep vein thrombosis), this would not be covered as it may have been caused by the tamoxifen. Some insurance companies may also exclude all pre-existing medical conditions if you choose to exclude your breast cancer.

Speak to your GP or treatment team before excluding breast cancer from your insurance cover. You must still give your full medical details to the insurance company providing your cover.

Secondary breast cancer

It may be possible to have your breast cancer excluded from your cover in order to receive a cheaper quote. However, it’s best to try to get full cover and pay the additional premium. If you don’t, any treatment related to your breast cancer will not be covered by the policy and you’ll be liable to pay for this. Some insurance companies may also exclude all pre-existing medical conditions if you choose to exclude your breast cancer.

The living with secondary breast cancer board on our online discussion forum includes personal experiences of finding travel insurance and making a claim.

5. Healthcare cover abroad (GHIC and EHIC)

If you’re travelling to a country within the European Union (EU) there are mutual health arrangements that you can benefit from if you need medical care while you are on holiday. This will entitle you to free or reduced cost emergency treatment in the EU.

The EHIC and GHIC are not an alternative to travel insurance. They will not cover any private medical healthcare or costs such as being flown back to the UK. Therefore, it is important to have both an EHIC or GHIC and a valid travel insurance policy.

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

If you have an existing EHIC card, issued before January 2021, you will be covered in EU countries. It does not include Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland.

When your EHIC expires, you can apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC).

Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)

This card is free and can be used in EU countries. It does not include Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland.

For most people, the GHIC replaces the existing European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for new applications.

Find out more about the EHIC and GHIC cards and how to apply on the NHS website.  

You will normally receive your card within seven days using official processes. However, be aware of unofficial websites that may charge you if you apply through them.

Free emergency medical treatment is also available to UK residents in Australia and New Zealand through reciprocal health agreements.

6. Things to remember before you travel

If you’re currently having treatment for primary or secondary breast cancer, the following may help you prepare for your trip.

  • Check where the nearest, large public hospital to where you are staying is, as small local tourist facilities are unlikely to have specialist doctors
  • Take the contact details of your treatment team and any alert cards relating to your diagnosis and treatment
  • Take your insurance documents with you when you travel, including your insurer’s 24-hour emergency number
  • Check the side effects of any treatment you’re having as you may need to take extra precautions on holiday (for example being extra careful in the sun)
  • Check if you need any vaccinations before you travel and speak to your treatment team before having them

7. Further support

Macmillan Cancer Support offers free financial advice and support to people with breast cancer. They produce information on travel insurance. For more information visit their website or call 0808 808 00 00.

You can also speak to our nurses on 0808 800 6000 or share your concerns and experience through our online discussion Forum.

Our Someone Like Me service can put you in touch with someone who has experience of the issues you’re facing.

Quality assurance

Last reviewed in November 2021. The next planned review begins in November 2024.

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