If you have recently been diagnosed with cancer, a holiday can give you the time and space to come to terms with the illness. Or maybe you need a few days away to recuperate from cancer treatment. You might even want to go on holiday to celebrate the all-clear.
Travel insurance is essential if you are planning a holiday as it covers your luggage and personal belongings, cancellation and curtailment, as well as medical expenses if you need treatment abroad, or if you have to be flown home.
How easy is it to find cover for cancer sufferers?
Many insurers are reluctant to cover cancer patients, or anyone with a pre-existing medical condition, because they are considered more likely to make a claim. You might, for example, have to cancel the holiday because of ill health, or seek expensive medical treatment while you are away.
But it's not impossible to arrange travel insurance if you have a pre-existing condition - and there are usually two options. Some mainstream insurers will agree to insure your trip, but will exclude cover for any claim that is related to cancer. So, if you have to cancel your trip because the cancer makes you too ill to travel, or you have to go into hospital on holiday for cancer treatment, or as a result of an illness caused by the cancer, then you will have to pay the cost out of your own pocket.
If you would prefer a more comprehensive cancer travel insurance policy, a number of specialist firms insure people with pre-existing medical conditions, including cancer. You should, however, be prepared to pay a higher premium because of the greater risk of a claim.
You will also have to answer a lot of questions about the cancer diagnosis, the stage and grade of your illness, as well as the prognosis. The experience can be distressing, but it can help if you have all the information to hand. The insurer will also more than likely ask for a letter from your doctor to confirm that you are fit enough to travel.
The premiums vary according to the severity of the cancer and the stage of treatment. Cancer travel insurance is also usually more expensive if you are heading to the US because of the high cost of medical bills in America.
What if I have recovered from cancer?
If you have been diagnosed with cancer in the past but have now recovered from the disease, and are officially in remission, you might think it would be easy to buy travel insurance. However, it can still be tricky to find the right policy and you might need specialist cover. Insurers also differ in their approach. Some might insure a patient who has been clear for three months; others might refuse cover for several years. But nearly all firms will insist on a letter from your doctor to confirm that you no longer have the disease and are well enough to travel.
The attitude of insurers towards cancer patients can seem harsh, but you should always be open and honest about your medical history. If you fail to disclose any relevant details, your insurer can justifiably refuse to pay a claim - and that could prove to be very expensive.
Do I need an EHIC?
The free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitles UK residents to emergency treatment in a state hospital when they are temporarily visiting the European Union, as well as a number of other countries on the Continent.
It's important to remember that an EHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance. You will be treated in the same way as a local resident - and in some countries healthcare is not always free and not always of a high standard.
But it's a good idea to apply for the card as your insurer might not pay out for any treatment covered under the EHIC. You can find out more about the card here.
Travel tips for cancer patients
Anyone who has cancer should seek advice from a medical professional before they travel. It is also wise to take with you any documents detailing your diagnosis, treatment and medication, plus contact details for your doctor in the UK.
When you are planning your holiday, choose your destination with care. You don't necessarily want to sit on a long flight or undergo an arduous journey to a remote outpost with few creature comforts. You should also consider the standard of healthcare in your chosen country. The local High Commission, Embassy or Consulate should be able to help. And remember that if you need vaccinations, they could make you feel unwell if your immune system is already compromised.
Check in early for any flight and find out about any medical equipment on board the aircraft. People with some forms of cancer are more susceptible to deep vein thrombosis (DVT) so make sure you take the necessary precautions.
If you are taking medication, you should check on the availability of your drugs overseas and keep a note of the prescription in case your medicines are lost or stolen. You might also need a letter to explain the presence of any pills or syringes in your luggage - and don't forget to take advice on dispensing your medication if you are travelling to a different time zone.
For more useful advice and travel tips visit the Cancer Research UK website.
Find a competitive quote
MoneySupermarket can help cancer patients find the right travel insurance at the right price. Our dedicated pre-existing medical condition page makes it easy to compare prices and policies from a range of leading insurers.