On the morning of September 11, 2001, nearly 3,000 people were killed in a series of coordinated terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The attacks resulted in the creation of the Transportation Security Administration, designed to prevent similar attacks in the future.
One result that we all know about is now all travelers are required to undergo security screening at checkpoints. And as additional terrorist events happen throughout the world the requirements can change very rapidly. These screenings have added many more hurdles to air travel and can be even trickier to navigate for people with cancer.
Cancer.Net has some great airport travel tips for people with cancer.
Medical clearance. This requirement is designed to prevent anyone with a contagious illness from boarding the flight or to stop a serious issue from happening during the flight. If cancer or cancer treatment causes side effects or symptoms that make you look ill, or if you use oxygen, the airplane’s crew can refuse to let you on board.
According to Cancer.Net, you should contact the airline before purchasing the ticket to see if you will need medical clearance to fly and how to get it. This is also the case if you carry medical equipment such as portable oxygen.
There is help. Many airlines can provide assistance if extra help is needed getting through the airport, boarding the plane, checking in/boarding early, carrying luggage/equipment or using a wheelchair or cart. Some airlines can arrange for supplementary oxygen within the terminal including layovers.
Carry-on bags. If you have traveled even a little, you know that you need to pack all your medication in your carry-on bag. Checked bags may not arrive or may be hours or days late. The TSA has rules for how much liquid medicine can be brought through security. Tell the TSA agent before the screening and take it out of your bag. Some medications need to be kept cool and coolers/ice packs/etc. are allowed. Medical supplies such as pumps, syringes, IV bags, etc are also permitted. These items may need to go through extra screening and may require more time.
Know the screening rules. Many people with medical issues including cancer find carrying a TSA Notification Card helpful. This card is not required and can be obtained from the TSA web page. It will allow you to discreetly communicate with TSA agents about your condition.
If you are going through treatment and wear a head covering, you can wear a scarf/head covering through the security checkpoint. You might be asked to go through additional screening such as a pat-down search of the head scarf. If asked to remove your head covering you can do it in a private screening area.
If you wear a breast prosthesis, you do not need to remove it before going through security. Be sure to tell a TSA agent before going through screening. During screening you may be asked to remove your top to show your breast prosthesis. You can ask for a drape or private screening. If you put your prosthesis in a carry-on bag, it does not have to fit in a quart-sized clear zip top bag even though it contains gel/liquid. If it is removed it will need to go through x-ray screening.
Port, catheter, ostomy. Tell the TSA agent about your port, catheter or ostomy and where it is located before beginning screening. Additional screening may be needed but the newer technology has made it less likely. Also tell the agent if touching the port or catheter during a pat-down could cause pain or a medical problem. Most people with an ostomy do not have to show or empty the ostomy before screening but, once again, be sure to tell the agent about it prior to screening.
The TSA website , run by the Department of Homeland Security, is at tsa.gov. Their mission is to protect the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce. The web site contains very good up to date information that includes:
Travel Tips - Learn how to navigate security screening with these helpful travel tips. Make your next trip easier with these useful travel tips.
FAQs - Get answers to frequently asked questions about security screening.
What Can I Bring? - Learn what items can be packed in your carry-on or checked baggage.
Answers to your questions about screening policies and procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint can be found at the free TSA Cares hotline at 1-855-787-2227.
All of this can seem overwhelming. But according to Cancer.Net, a little extra planning can help make sure your next trip is as stress-free, fun and safe as possible.
The Northeast Regional Cancer Institute encourages you to talk with your healthcare provider about your specific medical conditions and treatments. The information contained in this article is meant to be helpful and educational but is not a substitute for medical advice. The above information is from cancer.net.org and tsa.gov. The Northeast Regional Cancer Institute can provide additional information on the above topic. Feel free to visit the Cancer Institute website at cancernepa.org, or contact the organization by calling 1-800-424-6724.