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All TopicsForum: Radiation Therapy - Before, During and After → Topic: Air Travel after Radiation

Topic: Air Travel after Radiation

Forum: Radiation Therapy - Before, During and After — What to expect from treatment and ways to cope with side effects.

Posted on: Dec 28, 2007 08:24PM

Hannah916 wrote:

Hi everyone!

Does anyone have any information about concerns over air travel after radiation? 

I'm due to start radiation soon and I have a vacation planned two weeks after I finish my treatments.  I'm wondering if I should give myself more time to recuperate before flying. 

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Dec 28, 2007 10:48PM maxgirl wrote:

Hannah -- I actually did a quick one-day trip with one-hour flights during radiation.  I didn't need to fly again until 2 months after I finished.

My concern was lymphedema, because I'd had some swelling in my arm after the node surgery.  So I saw a lymphedema therapist for treatment and also got a compression sleeve to wear on the flight.

I didn't have any problems.  If I'd traveled 2 weeks after radiation, my only concern would have been fatigue, because I was pretty low-energy for about 6 weeks after treatment.  Two weeks should also be enough time for your skin to heal if it needs to.

I hope rads go smoothly for you and you have a wonderful vacation. 

Dx 1/10/2007, IDC, Stage IIA, Grade 3, 2/15 nodes, ER-/PR-, HER2-
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Dec 29, 2007 12:59AM Binney4 wrote:

Ditto to both the fatigue factor and the visit with a well-trained lymphedema therapist. The National Lymphedema Network (www.lymphnet.org) has a position paper on air travel that gives you some ideas about how to manage. If you wear a compression sleeve, be sure to get fitted for a glove as well, so that the lymph fluid is not forced into your hand.

Hope the trip you plan is to someplace relaxing and healing Cool. Bon voyage!


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Dec 29, 2007 04:55PM JapanLynn wrote:

Hi, Hannah--

I flew from NY to Japan two weeks after finishing rads.  My onc and breast surgeon both thought I was at low risk for lymphedema, but told me to wrap my arm in an ace bandage if I was concerned.  I decided not to, and everything went fine...so far, so good! 

Enjoy your vacation...you deserve it!


Dx 7/30/2007, IDC, 1cm, Stage IA, Grade 2, 0/2 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Dec 29, 2007 05:43PM Binney4 wrote:

Lynn and all,

It's a problem with our medical professionals that they often have little or no experience with lymphedema and may seem to misdirect us. (The medical professionals responsible for the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of lymphedema are specially trained lymphedema therapists, to whom your oncs and surgeons should refer you, since their own training does not include this area of expertise.) The type of bandages to safely wrap an arm at risk for lymphedema looks like an ACE bandage, but it's entirely different and acts very differently. Lymphedema bandages are "short-stretch," meaning they don't have anywhere near the elasticity of an ACE bandage. They're specially ordered from a lymphedema medical supply provider. They must be applied over a layer of stockinette specially cut to fit over the arm and hand, and a layer of thin foam or soft, strong cotton wrap, and the wrapping of the short-stretch bandages must then be done with the firmest compression distally, gradually working proximally with decreasing pressure. Generally at least three layers of varying widths of short-stretch bandages are applied over the stockinette and foam base layers. It takes most of us a couple of weeks of practice, supervised by a specially trained lymphedema therapist, to learn to do it safely and effectively. If you are already used to dealing with medical applications of bandages you might be able to learn it more quickly, at least if you are also already familiar with the action of the lymph vessels. The specific gradient wrapping technique for lymphedema allows the muscles underlying the lymph vessels to act as a lymph pump by applying gentle pressure and pushing the lymph in the proper direction, as determined by the gradient compression of the bandages.

Applying an ACE bandage to your arm has a different action. It actually cramps the lymph vessels shut and blocks flow in exactly the same way that a blood pressure cuff does, overloading the already-compromised lymph system and quite possibly resulting in lymphedema.

Or to put it simply, never apply an ACE bandage to your at-risk arm. Laughing

Be well!


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Dec 29, 2007 05:59PM Bren-2007 wrote:

Hi Hannah,

I flew coast to coast after 25 rad treatments and before my 8 boosts.  All I can report is discomfort due to redness and itching.  I didn't wear a bra, but wore a cami with a button down shirt over it so I could keep cortisone cream on the itchy parts.  Also, fatigue was a problem as I was stuck in O'Hare for 10 hours.  I wouldn't have traveled, except my son was graduating from college and I never ever considered missing it!!  Otherwise, personally, I would never travel coast to coast during rads.  I know of others who have traveled for pre-arranged and paid for vacations and have had no problems at all.

It just depends on the indivdual and how your body is with the radiation.

Best of luck to you.  We'll keep you in our prayers as you begin your radiation tx!!!


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Jan 7, 2008 05:01PM JukieF wrote:

I'm just past the halfway mark. I leave for a long-planned trip to Spain the day after my last treatment. I couldn't change my trip plans, and we had to hustle to get my rads done in time. You can't plan BC! :-)

I know it's going to be a long couple of days because I have to take the take the shuttle to the first airport. I have a direct flight to London, then a three-hour layover in London before my flight to Madrid. Travel is tiring under the best circumstances, but I'm going to do my best to rest as much as I can.

One of my concerns was having some big dude sit on my bad side and elbow me for nine hours. British Airways doesn't let you reserve seats ahead of time unless you're a preferred customer, but I called the airline and explained my situation, and I now have reserved seats on all three of my BA flights. I'll have window seats, with no one on my bad side and will have the side of the airplane to lean my head on and rest. They were very accommodating. But it required a phone call, because when I made the request via email they said no. Also, if I'm as tired as I think I'll be (given how I feel now), I won't hesitate to ask for a wheelchair if I have long walks between terminals. 

The good thing about my trip is that I'm going to be in Spain for a month, and I'm staying with a friend. I plan to rest the first few days and give myself a chance to recover.

Good luck with your trip! 

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