Travelling with cancer: how to avoid an emergency repatriation

After receiving a cancer diagnosis, the thought of travelling might seem fraught with risk. However, as you recover or learn to live life with your illness, you’re often encouraged to continue with the experiences you enjoy. For lots of us, this might include holidaying and trips out of the country to visit loved ones. So what can you do to prepare and minimise the risk of needing to come home by emergency medical repatriation?

Travelling with cancer how to avoid an emergency repatriation

How to prepare

Before you start to plan your trip, it’s advisable to seek medical advice from your regular consultant or nurse to make sure you’re fit to travel. They’ll also be able to support you with advice and assess if you require any additional medication or vaccinations. Whether you’ll be fit to travel will depend on the symptoms of your illness, your destination and your means of transport. For example, sometimes patients with cancer are advised to avoid air travel as some cancers can increase the risk of blood clots. In these cases short distance road travel might be a better option.

Ideally, your GP will also write a summary of your diagnosis, current medicines and treatment plan so if you do need unexpected medical support, you can show this to the local healthcare team. This letter will also be required if you intend to fly commercially and carry your medication in your hand luggage.

It’s also a good idea to consider you destination carefully. When researching different locations, consider local climates as well as the potential food options and hygiene of the place you’re staying. It’s also a good idea to note where the nearest local hospital or clinic is – just in case. Finally, make sure you’re travelling with all relevant documentation, insurance information and contact details of your own medical providers – if possible in the language of the country you are visiting.

Make sure you’re covered

If you have active cancer, you need to feel comfortable that your holiday insurance policy is adequate for your needs. Choosing an insurance provider who specialises in travel insurance for people with cancer can be beneficial.

When looking for a policy to cover you, the kind of things insurers may take into consideration are:

  • Destination
  • Your travel plans
  • The activities you plan to take part in
  • Who is travelling with you
  • The type of cancer you have
  • Your current treatment
  • Your past health

They may also require a letter summarising your current health from your GP.

Planned medical escorts

If the thought of travelling without assistance seems too daunting, medical transport services like EMS can help. A medical escort team can accompany you on a commercial flight, or if flying is not advised, in a long distance road ambulance, to ensure your health requirements are met and monitored throughout your journey. The team would bring all of the necessary medicine and equipment required for the trip, so you don’t have to. These services can be planned and booked in advance to help you travel to and from your destination.

What if I want to go home unexpectedly?

Despite meticulous planning, sometimes the unexpected happens and you may require unplanned medical care during your stay abroad. Thinking through this scenario in advance can help save time and avoid confusion.

Many EU countries have excellent medical care, which you can access free of charge or at a reduced price through the current EHIC scheme. If however, you’re unhappy with the care you are receiving in a local hospital or want to go home to continue treatment in a familiar environment close to friends and family, EMS Air Ambulance & Medical Repatriation can help get you home either by air or road, no matter where in the world you are. We can act quickly, liaise with hospitals on both sides so you can access the care you need the moment you get home. We take care of all the paperwork and make all the practical arrangements.


If you would like to talk through your situation and find out about your options, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Alternatively, you can fill out our contact form to request a free quote – without any obligation – to get a clearer picture of what’s involved.

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