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Can you fly with cancer? Air ambulances as safe patient transport alternatives for cancer patients

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Can you fly with cancer? Air ambulances as safe patient transport alternatives for cancer patients

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While cancer can overwhelm and change the course of our life completely, it is not totally restrictive. With the right precautions, proper planning and assistance, cancer patients can find a new sense of normality and carry on with their lives. Depending on their physical condition, they can fly without any issue. However, it is important that they check with their doctor first, especially if they have recently had or are undergoing certain treatments. 

Looking at the conditions that prohibit flying commercially, we will explore how terminally ill patients can travel safely via air ambulances. These medical flights are also a secure option for patients with ongoing chemotherapy and who have just recovered from cancer, especially if they want to benefit from the cutting-edge technology in the UK. 

When is it dangerous for cancer patients to fly? 

The first thing that cancer patients should do when planning to travel is to consult their doctor and to determine if they are fit to fly without any risk to their health. You can also get in touch with the  Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and with the airline company you are flying with if you have any doubts or to avoid unpleasant surprises at the airport. 

Nonetheless, there are certain conditions that prevent flying for cancer patients because of the increased risk to their health. These are: 

  • In case of bone marrow or stem cell transplant in the last 6 to 12 months
  • In case they have had any recent surgery 
  • In case their platelets are low
  • In case their red blood cells are low
  • In case they get breathless easily. 
  • In case of a recent recovery from cancer

cancer cells

Why is it dangerous for terminally ill patients to fly commercially? 

Air travel is one of the safest modes of travelling for healthy patients. However, this statement is not applicable to those with a weakened immune system or terminally ill patients, as is the case with cancer. 

There are three main risks in an airplane that cancer patients should be aware of: 

  • Air pressure changes
  • Risk of infections
  • Oxygen and other equipment onboard

Air pressure changes

Flying in a plane cabin involves changes in air pressure because of the increased elevation in flight. This change might cause gasses in body cavities to expand. What cancer patients should be aware of is that if they have had recent surgery, the change in air pressure can cause their incisions to break open or lead to brain swelling or swelling in the hands and feet. 

Risk of infections

The small plane cabin, combined with the number of passengers being seated in proximity to one another considerably increase the risks of infections levels. From common cold or flu to COVID-19 or dengue fever, cancer patients should take additional precautions to avoid a potential contaminations and respiratory infections. 

Oxygen and other equipment onboard 

An important consideration for terminally ill patients is that most airline companies would not allow portable oxygen or other medical equipment onboard the flight. If you imperatively need portable oxygen or some other equipment at all times, it is best to contact your airline company beforehand and ask about their regulations regarding medical equipment. 

Medical Repatration UK enables safe travelling for cancer patients 

Despite increased risks, it may be important, or even essential, for cancer patients to fly in and out of the UK. For instance, they might want to travel to another country to be closer to their loved ones, to obtain more efficient treatment or for business purposes. Medical Repatriation UK enable cancer patients to travel safely, whether they are coming to the UK from another country or leaving the UK. Medical Repatriation UK has air ambulances fitted with the latest medical equipment to cater to the medical needs of even ICU patients. Doctors and paramedics on board the plane oversee and offer care to patients en-route. How do we tackle the challenges faced by cancer patients while flying? 

Air pressure changes 

Since an air ambulance is a chartered plane, it is possible to adjust the cabin pressure according to the patient’s needs. These medical flights can fly at so-called sea level since the air pressure is adjusted to be closer to the pressure at sea level, which ensures the patient’s safety at all times. 

Risk of infections

To begin with, an air ambulance is a chartered plane, which means that there will be no other passengers on board. Flying alongside the cancer patient will be a loved one and two medical professionals. Even before the flight, our team at Medical Repatriation UK will take all the necessary precautions, whether it is in terms of tests, disinfecting or prepping with appropriate protective clothing and equipment to avoid any risk of infection. 

Oxygen and other medical equipment on board

The air ambulances of Medical Repatriation UK are equipped with the latest equipment and we can even fit in more appliances depending on the patient’s condition. As such, portable oxygen and other appliances should not be a concern.

Flying for cancer patients with ongoing chemotherapy 

Ongoing chemotherapy implies a decrease in white blood cell count. This is the type of blood cell that fights infections and a lack thereof in cancer patients can increase the risks of being contaminated while flying. 

Patients with ongoing chemotherapy are also at increased risk of the dangers of UV rays, considering that their body is more sensitive to the sun. Besides these hidden risks, cancer patients should be mindful of cancer fatigue, which is the exhaustion that occurs and persists long after treatment. 

These issues can be solved with an air ambulance and our bed-to-bed service. While our chartered medical flights offer unparalleled safety and privacy, our bed-to-bed service will take care of ground transportation to and from the airport, which ensures your safety throughout the complete patient transport. 

Cancer treatment in the UK 

Cancer treatment in the UK is covered by NHS for UK residents and citizens, which is one of the reasons why citizens abroad prefer coming back to the UK for their cancer treatment. Additionally, the UK boasts some of the most advanced facilities when it comes to administering treatment and care. 

For instance, Europe’s biggest comprehensive cancer centre, The Royal Marsden, is located in London. This facility offers treatment to more than 60 000 patients every year, including private cancer patients. It is famous for pioneering the latest cancer treatments and is a global leader in cancer research for which it was awarded the ‘Best Hospital’ accolade

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Royal Marsden was able to adapt and make changes to ensure constant care and treatment to cancer patients without any delay. Thanks to such facilities, many cancer patients prefer opting for medical transport to the UK for treatment. 

Contact us for an air ambulance for cancer patients 

If you, or a loved one, are suffering from cancer and you need to travel in or out of the UK, get in touch with Medical Repatriation UK. We will take care of organising the medical flight for you and we will also equip our air ambulances with the necessary equipment based on your needs. Our aviation agents are working on a 24-hour basis every day to assist you and organise your medical transport. Contact them by: 

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