The Manual
11 Jun 2013

The Manual: Travel and prostate problems

Do you fancy getting away this summer, or need to make a work trip but have concerns about travelling with prostate cancer or other prostate problems? Our Specialist Nurse answers your questions on what to think about when travelling with prostate cancer and information about travel insurance.

Do you fancy getting away this summer, or need to make a work trip but have concerns about travelling with prostate cancer or other prostate problems? Our Specialist Nurse answers your questions on what to think about when travelling with prostate cancer and information about travel insurance.

Flying after treatment for prostate cancer - is there anything I need to plan?

If you're taking a plane, there might be things you need to think about.  For example, would a seat near the toilet make things easier if you're experiencing incontinence? Will a long-haul flight be tiring,  and can you properly rest and recuperate at the other end?

After surgery, you might not be able to fly straight away - in fact, any long travel might be tricky, whether by road, rail, or sea. The NHS has some general information, but you can ask your surgeon how soon it's sensible for you to travel.

In theory, if you've had brachytherapy, the radiation from the implanted seeds could set off the sensors at the airport. This is probably unlikely, but if you're worried you can ask your doctor for an advice card saying you've had treatment with internal radiation.

I have urinary problems. How might this affect my trip?

The call of nature shouldn't stop you visiting the places you want to, but when you're planning days out, bear in mind that some places have more toilets than others, and you won't know where they are. You may have to plan your trip carefully to make sure you have easy access to a toilet. You might find tips from travellers forum websites like Trip Advisor, or maps of public toilets from the local tourist information site. The Bladder and Bowel Foundation has more about travelling with confidence.

If you have urinary problems, you might be taking equipment with you (such as continence pads or a catheter, and hygiene wipes). If you're flying, make sure you know how you'll get it onto the plane and think about having a doctor's letter to explain things. If you pass the letter to a security officer before you and the bags are scanned they'll know what to expect.

Remember that it won't be easy to get hold of spares while you're away, so carry any spare parts (catheter valves, for example), and anything you need to keep things clean and working. It'll probably be easier to pack a bigger bag at home than to try and buy specialised medical equipment while you're away.

Translated information might be useful if people don't read English and something does go wrong. The company that makes your equipment might already have information in other languages available.

What do I need to think about when taking medicines or medical equipment abroad?

That depends – certain airlines have rules about travelling with medicines. You should check what you need to do at the airport and with the airline. Tell them what you need to take and how it needs to be stored. You might need letters from your doctor or nurse.  Some medicines need to be kept below a certain temperature, so you might need a fridge where you stay, and cool bags for the journey.  Your doctor or nurse can tell you about storing your medicines or medical equipment. 

Some medicines that are legal here may need a special license in another country. So you might need letters from your doctor or nurse, or special paperwork to get your medicines through customs. Is English widely spoken where you're going? If not, you might want to have your medical documents translated - it could save delays and misunderstandings. 

If you have to take your medicines at certain times of the day, remember that changing time zones - and just changing to a holiday lifestyle - might upset this routine.  Talk to your doctor or nurse about how to make sure you're still taking the medicine at the right time.

Don't forget to have medicine with you for the trip - and maybe a bit extra, in case you or your bags are delayed anywhere.

Is my trip going to cost more if I've got prostate cancer?

Unfortunately, it probably will. Travel insurance is likely to be more expensive after a diagnosis of prostate cancer - even if you're not having treatment or if the cancer is under control.

Insurance is worked out by averages and risks. Because insurers think you're more likely to need medical assistance on your trip, they charge more. Most men with prostate cancer can find travel insurance, but you might have to shop around to get a good deal. There are specialist insurers and brokers for people with health conditions, but don't ignore mainstream providers - they might also have what you're looking for.

Some men decide to take out insurance which doesn't cover everything related to their cancer. All insurance has gaps in what it covers. It's a case of deciding what's most vital for you and what risk you're prepared to take. But always declare everything when you take out the policy - if you don't, you might make the whole policy invalid.

Other things might also raise the cost of a holiday. For example, you may be more concerned about having home comforts, or need to be sure you'll have a fridge to store medicines.

When do I need to start planning my trip? 

This depends on you and your trip, but as a rough guide, it's good to start planning at least eight weeks before you go. This should give you enough time to shop around for travel insurance, make arrangements for medication or equipment, get any vaccinations you need, and arrange for letters from your doctor or nurse.

Some of these may be new to your holiday planning, and others could take longer than you're used to. Have a look at our travel timeline.

What can I do to stay well while I'm away?

It's important to look after your general health while you're away. For example, it might be wise to avoid strenuous activity that you're not used to. And be wary of getting too hot (or too cold).

If you've had treatment with radiotherapy, you might be extra sensitive to the sun so don't forget to wear sunscreen.

Treat cuts, scratches and bites with antiseptic cream straight away - and wear insect repellent to cut down the chances of being bitten. This is especially important if you've had treatment that weakens your immune system, such as chemotherapy.

You can also protect yourself by only drinking clean water, avoiding raw foods, street food and ice in drinks, and peeling fruit before you eat it. As an extra precaution, you could ask your doctor or nurse for antibiotics for the trip.

And wherever you go, keep a friend or relative's contact details with you in case you have an emergency.

Where can I get more information about travelling with prostate cancer?

It is always a good idea to speak to your doctor or nurse when you start planning a trip. They can help you think about any impact your diagnosis or treatments might have.