You may want to go on Holiday
Going on holiday is a good way to relax and get away from things, especially after the traumatic time you might have been through. Many people like to plan a holiday for the end of their treatment.
For many people, having cancer won’t affect their ability to travel or where they go. Others may need to make special arrangements. Cancer is many different diseases and two people with the same type of cancer may have different treatments and different needs. Planning is always important but is even more so when you have, or have had, cancer. Planning will make sure things go smoothly so that you can relax and enjoy your trip.
Issues to consider
Whether you are thinking of going away in the UK or abroad, the first thing to do is to talk to your doctor to check you are fit to travel. What you need to do will depend on where you want to go and how well you are. You should allow plenty of time to make any special arrangements.
Be realistic – places you have been before may not be suitable now. Think about what you need and make sure your destination is suitable. For example, if you tire easily and can’t walk long distances, check that the facilities you need are close to where you are staying.
Many travel companies have medical officer s, they can also arrange early boarding, wheelchairs, special diets and oxygen if you need them. Make sure you are clear about what your travel company will provide. It is worth shopping around as prices can vary.
Travelling and your physical needs
How your physical needs affect your trip will depend on when and where you want to go, as well as on the type of cancer and treatment you’ve had. Your needs may be different if you go away before, rather than during or after, your treatment.
You may need to consider
- Feeling tired after a course of treatment
- Being at more risk of getting an infection
- Being more sensitive to the sun, from either radiotherapy or some cancer drugs
- Feeling sick
- Having diarrhea
- Coping with physical changes, for example after surgery
None of these possible problems should stop you going away. In fact a break may help you to recover and feel that you are getting back to normal. But it is worth thinking about where it is best to go and what you will need while you are away..
Before you decide when and where to go, think about
- When you finish treatment – is this the best time to go or would you enjoy it more if you left it a month or so?
- Whether to holiday in the UK or abroad?
- Whether you need privacy after coping with a physical change?
- What the climate will be like?
- Whether you need a place to stay that has wheelchair access?
Getting travel insurance
Travel insurance can be more difficult to get when you have had cancer and may take longer to arrange. There are two areas of concern for your insurance company – whether you may have to cancel your trip, or whether you may become ill on holiday.
To cover your fitness to travel, you will usually have to supply a letter from your cancer specialist. You do have to consider emergencies, however unlikely that may seem. It is vital to have travel insurance because you may have to be brought home if you do become ill. This can cost a lot of money but your travel insurance will cover the cost for you.
You are likely to find it more difficult to get insurance for some countries than for others. The USA can be particularly difficult because medical care is so expensive there. If you needed treatment there, the insurance company knows that it could cost them a lot of money.
To visit some countries you will need vaccinations before you leave. If you are having certain cancer drugs or have a weakened immune system, you may not be able to have certain vaccinations. Check with your doctor before you have any.
If you are taking any medicines, you should plan how much you need to take with you and get those prescriptions before you go. If you are taking any controlled drugs, such as morphine based painkillers, you may need to make special arrangements.
What you need to tell insurance companies
All travel insurance policies require you to disclose fully any information about existing or pre -existing conditions. Even if you have had cancer in the distant past, you still need to tell the insurance company about it. If you don’t provide all the facts, the insurance company can rightly claim it was misinformed and may not pay out if you make a claim.
Your fitness to travel
As we’ve said, you need to get written confirmation of fitness from your doctor, even if you have not had any treatment for some time. It is always best to get advice from your doctor anyway before going abroad, even if it is only for a few days.
If you have an annual or multi trip policy then you will need to provide an updated confirmation certificate from your doctor every time you travel.
The European Health Insurance Card
If you are travelling to a country within the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, you should carry a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The EEA includes all EU countries plus Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. The EHIC replaces the old E111 form, which is no longer valid. The EHIC entitles you to free or reduced cost, medical care in the country you are visiting. The countries included in this agreement are listed in the leaflet that comes with the card.
You need to take the health insurance card with you if you want to benefit from reciprocal health service agreements. But you may have to pay for some things at the time and then claim the money back later. You can apply for a card online through the NHS Choices website. You can also apply for a card by phone on 0300 330 1350 or 0845 606 2030.
Remember – reciprocal health service agreements do not always cover the full cost of treatment. They do not cover the cost of getting you home in an emergency, for instance. So it is sensible to have travel insurance even when travelling in the EU. But you’ll still need a European Health Insurance Card because your insurance company may not cover the cost of treatment that the card covers. If you try to claim in full, they may say you should have had a card. So it is important to check the small print!
Specialist policies and insurance companies
If you are having trouble getting cover, you may find it easier to get a specialized policy. An insurance broker can try to arrange a policy for you. Or can give you a list of insurance companies with special policies for people with cancer or terminal illness.
The British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA) can find you brokers who will advise cancer patients and can arrange travel insurance.
British Insurance Brokers Association
8th Floor John Stow House
18 Bevis Marks
Phone: 0870 950 1790 (open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday)
Brokers make a service charge so it is always best to make an informal approach to a number of brokers before making a decision. Satisfy yourself that they are familiar with the concerns of cancer patients and are aware what is available for people who have or have had cancer. Some possible brokers and insurance companies are listed below, but you must always make your own enquiries and find an insurer and policy you are happy with.
A list of specialist insurance companies
The best advice is to shop around and start well in advance of your planned holiday. It is worth getting quotes from well-known or general travel insurance companies, particularly if you are no longer having treatment and your cancer is in remission. Insurance companies do change their position on insurance cover frequently, so it is almost impossible for us to give you an accurate list of companies that will give you insurance. We provide this information in the hope that it will be helpful to those who are having problems finding insurance.
The companies we list below may be useful for people with cancer, particularly those who are on treatment or have symptoms. Brokers may be able to offer better deals than individual insurance companies because they work with a large pool of insurance companies to try and find you the best deal. The first list below is for insurance brokers, and the second are individual insurance agencies.
We have heard of most of these companies through recommendations. We are not recommending them, or saying they will definitely insure you.
JD Travel Insurance Consultants
Offers annual and single trip European and worldwide (including the USA) policies. You may have to be free of cancer for 12 months to be able to buy a policy. They can also cover travellers undergoing treatment at any stage of disease, following diagnosis. They can insure terminal patients as long as there is a Doctor’s letter confirming that prognosis is expected to be in excess of six months.
Orbis Insurance Services
Provides cover for people with pre -existing medical conditions for single and annual policies. They may ask if you are on a clinical trial.
Insurance Choice are an insurance brokers who offer travel insurance to any UK or EU residents with pre- existing medical conditions. There is no upper age limit.
2nd Floor St Albans House
Royal Leamington Spa
Phone: 0843 2278284
Patients strongly recommend getting a quote from AGE UK. These are some other agencies
Freedom Travel Insurance
Freedom Travel Insurance offer specialist travel insurance for people with cancer. Their cover is underwritten by a very large insurance company called AXA. They offer European and worldwide policies including the USA.
Freedom Insurance Services Ltd
16 – 20 Regent Street
Tel: 01223 446 914 (8.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm Saturday)
Insure Cancer (Medi Travelcover Ltd)
Insure Cancer will cover people with cancer for all destinations, including the USA. They will consider cover for people who are in treatment and people with advanced cancer. Their main requirement is that your consultant gives approval for you to make your trip, and will need to submit a form saying this.
It’s So Easy Travel Insurance
Provides travel insurance for people with pre- existing medical conditions, including cancer.
It’s So Easy Travel Insurance
27 Old Gloucester Street
Phone: 0844 357 1315
All Clear Insurance
Specialises in providing travel insurance for people with pre- existing medical conditions.
All Clear Insurance Services Limited
All Clear House
1 Redwing Court
Phone: 0845 250 5350 (9am to 7pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm Sat, 10am to 4pm Sun)
Free Spirit is a specialist travel insurance policy for people with pre -existing medical conditions, including cancer. You may be able to get a quote online, but if they need more information about your current health status they might ask you to ring them instead. If your cancer is advanced, and you’re no longer having active treatment, phone for a quote rather than trying online.
Phone: 0845 230 5000 (8am to 6pm Monday to Friday)
World First provides insurance for people in the UK with medical conditions if they have not had treatment in the past 6 months. They do not cover advanced cancer. For an individual quote they provide a medical screening phone line.
Phone: 0845 90 80 161 (Monday to Friday 8.30am to 6pm, Saturdays 9am to 4pm)
Staysure provides cover for those travelling who have or have had cancer, and has a 24 hour emergency medical help line.
Northampton, NN4 7XD
Phone: 0844 692 8444