What Do I Need to Know About Traveling With Breast Cancer

Metal Detectors, Chemo Ports and Other Devices Can Make Travel More Complicated

Security officer searching businesswoman at airport
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Going on a trip during chemotherapy for breast cancer can be a nice break from the strains of treatment. But since airline security is more rigorous than ever, it's important to be aware of how your treatments may affect your travel. While going through cancer therapies, you may have metal on or in your body that will set off the alarms on the body scan machines or the metal-detecting wands. Being prepared will help you get through security with fewer problems.

Plan ahead and know what to bring with you to ensure a smooth trip and fewer misunderstandings.

Chemotherapy Ports and Pumps May Set Off Metal Detectors

If you have an implanted port in your chest or arm or have an under-the-skin pump, carry an identification card for the device. If you don’t have the ID card yet, ask your doctor for a note, written on her practice's letterhead that describes the type, purpose and location of the device. Have the ID card or note with you, ready to show the security staff when you go through the security line. Notify them before you go through the screening devices about your device. Not every port or pump will set off the metal detectors, since some do not contain ferrous metal and because different levels of security may be in place. In many cases, the security staff will simply wave you through the line after viewing your medical ID card or your doctor's note, but in some situations, they may do a more thorough pat down.


Tissue Expanders and Hand-held Metal Detector Wands

If you’re having breast reconstruction done and have a tissue expander in place, you may have a magnet in the expander. The magnet helps your plastic surgeon find the valve through which saline is added to the expander. A hand-held metal detector wand or full body scanner will usually pick up such a magnet.

Just like a chemotherapy port, ask your surgeon ahead of time for a note or ID card explaining the placement and purpose of the magnet. Have the ID card or note ready to show to the security staff before you are screened.

Syringes and X-ray Machines

If you need to carry an injectable medicine such as Procrit or Neupagen, or you need an EpiPen(TM), get a letter from your doctor explaining the medical need for the medicine and syringe. The letter should include a description of what the medication looks like so the security staff can match the description to the injectable you have with you. Make copies of your prescriptions for these and any medicines you are bringing, and carry those with you as well.

Having breast cancer doesn't mean that you can't have a break or take a vacation. While traveling while undergoing breast cancer treatment can be a bit burdensome, taking some precautions and making plans ahead of time can help speed up the process. Talk to your doctor about documents you may need and bring copies with you to smoothly get through airport security and avoid unnecessary delays.

With advance preparation, you can go on to avoid a relaxing trip. 

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