1. Travel insurance after a breast cancer diagnosis
2. If you’re taking medication
3. Air travel with your prostheses
4. Travel vaccinations and breast cancer
5. Radiotherapy and skincare
6. Travelling if you have lymphoedema

1. Travel insurance after a breast cancer diagnosis

Some people have difficulty getting travel insurance after a diagnosis of breast cancer. Read our information on travel insurance after a breast cancer diagnosis if you’re planning a holiday abroad.

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2. If you’re taking medication

If you’re taking tablets, such as tamoxifen, it’s a good idea to:

  • pack more than you’re likely to need in case of travel delays
  • carry your medication in your hand luggage so it doesn’t get lost
  • take a summary of your medical details with you

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3. Air travel with your breast prostheses

It’s safe to fly with a prosthesis as aircraft cabins are pressurised. Some airports use body scanners as part of their security procedures and some of these will reveal a prosthesis.

Find out more about flying if you have a prosthesis.

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4. Travel vaccinations and breast cancer 

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

Live vaccinations 

Live vaccinations are not recommended during chemotherapy or for six 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 vaccination

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. Inactivated vaccines include:

  • cholera
  • diphtheria, tetanus and polio
  • hepatitis A and B
  • flu
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • meningococcal meningitis
  • typhoid (injection)
  • tick-borne encephalitis
  • rabies

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5. Radiotherapy and skincare

If you’ve had radiotherapy, the skin in the treated area may be more at risk from the sun. Make sure the skin in the treated area is covered (you can still get burnt through some fine or mesh fabrics) or apply a high-factor sun cream when you’re out in the sun, even when treatment is finished.

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6. Travelling if you have lymphoedema 

There’s no reason why having lymphoedema should stop you enjoying holidays, but extra care may be necessary.

Pack carefully

  • talk to your GP or lymphoedema specialist about taking antibiotics with you (in case you develop an infection in the swollen area)
  • use a suitcase on wheels rather than one you carry
  • keep your hand baggage light and choose one you can carry on your back rather than your shoulder

Take care on long journeys

  • if you’ve been fitted with a compression garment, wear it during your journey
  • wear loose, comfortable clothes to ensure that they are not too tight on your shoulder, arm and wrist
  • try not to sit for too long in one position; take regular breaks if travelling by car or move around if you are travelling by air
  • gentle exercises can also be done while sitting to promote lymph flow
  • ask for help when moving luggage around  

Protect your skin

  • apply a high-factor sunscreen regularly to prevent sunburn
  • loose cotton clothes with long sleeves will also protect your swollen areas from the sun
  • use mosquito repellent containing at least 50% DEET, especially in the evenings and at night
  • wash your skin after swimming to get rid of the salt from the sea or chemicals from the pool

Stay cool

  • wear cotton compression garments in hot weather if possible, as they tend to be more comfortable
  • spray some water on your garment if you are feeling too hot
  • try keeping a spare garment in a plastic bag in the fridge before putting it on to cool you down
  • try to avoid extremes of temperature – getting too hot then too cold, or too cold then too hot

You might like to read our booklet Living with lymphoedema after breast cancer.

» Find tips on life beyond breast cancer in Becca, our free app

Last reviewed: September 2018
Next planned review begins 2021

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