2 Key Cancer Health Risks During Travel
by Morag Currin
2 Key Cancer Health Risks During Travel
I have been re-inspired with a brilliant concept of exploring cancer health risks during travel which was presented to me by Edyta Satchell, from Satchelle Global. So, credit to Edyta who spent hours learning about Oncology Esthetics® and asking many great questions about cancer treatment and what safety measures and precautions are to be put in place for the client who wants to, or needs to travel.
Cancer survivors, irrespective of their diagnosis, continue to travel – there are many formats to travel, however, for the purposes of this article we will focus on air travel. For some people with advanced cancer, the opportunity to travel can be a life changing event in this dark period of their life. For others, what they hoped to be a time of joy may become an unexpected disaster if they become unwell while away.
Even a short international trip from Miami to Cancun, which is just an hour flight, requires appropriate forward planning and proactive management can allow some people with cancer to make an important journey. Many things need to be considered such as the person’s physical capabilities (including the stability and severity of symptoms), the distances involved, the mode of travel and the country of destination.
Commercial air travel today is one of the most popular, fastest and efficient modes of transport yet there are some negatives with this mode of travel as the environment within the cabin can be challenging to name a few:
- humidity is relatively low (under 20%m where the norm is 60-80%)
- the noise level is higher than usual
- air is decompressed
- we are flying closer to the sun and exposed to stronger UV (cosmic radiation is much stronger on 30,000 miles above sea level)
- There are multiple contaminations zones, such as trays, TV screens, air conditioning knobs, restrooms which need to be considered when using
- our body can be cramped with long periods of sitting
- our luggage is exposed to the radiation when it is scanned through the airport security screening machines.
Two, of many healthy considerations need to be considered for the cancer patient/survivor with air travel.
1. Venous Thromboembolism (VTE)
For people who are at increased risk of VTE (previous VTE, active cancer, advanced cancer, recent surgery or trauma, limited mobility, advanced age, known thrombophilia, pregnancy or estrogen use) and not on long-term anticoagulation medication, the use of graduated compression stockings is recommended to prevent travel-related VTE. Graduated compression stocking strength of 20-30 mmHg can be used.
If a person is already on preventative or treatment doses of anticoagulants for any indication, no additional action is required to prevent travel-related VTE. The cause of travel-related thrombosis is likely from a combination of immobility (blood stasis in the leg veins), hypobaric environment, vessel damage and dehydration.
The person with this risk should get up and walk every 1-2 hours; exercise and stretch the legs regularly; wear loose fitting clothing; minimize baggage in space under the seat in front of them and to stay hydrated and avoid alcohol while traveling.
The risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is highest in the first 2 weeks after long-distance travel.
2. Lymphedema Risk
There are other things that happen during air travel that can place people at risk for lymphedema.
Being sedentary in flight, in other words sitting without moving for a long time does not help minimize this risk. Contraction and relaxation of muscles is very important for normal lymphatic flow. With no or minimal movement, the lymph flow becomes sluggish.
The ‘at risk’ quadrant of the body needs to be moved. Most of the time the affected areas are the limbs (arms, and/or legs). The arm and/or leg need to be squeezed and released; as well as moving the knees and elbows to ensure muscle movement.
Most food served in aircraft is salty which causes the body to retain water and to produce more lymph.
Carrying heavy bags, particularly putting pressure on an affected quadrant which involves the arm potentially increases the lymph load. Heavy shoulder straps can cut off collateral circulation.
For all people at risk for lymphedema, they should strongly consider wearing a sleeve and glove for upper body quadrants and arm. Sleeves should never be worn without hand protection especially if being used for risk reduction. Same concept to be applied for the lower body quadrants and leg. It is important that compression garments are the proper fit because if they are ill-fitting, they can trap fluid and cause a tourniquet effect which exacerbates the situation and causes more of a problem.
As a leader in our industry, Morag has spent over 27 years in the aesthetic/skin care industry, researching and constantly updating her knowledge on cancer and other diseases and how treatment affects the services we offer; plus she still offers services such as reflexology, aromatherapy and electrodessication. Morag pioneered Oncology Esthetics® training back in 2007. It was her concept that has driven change to our industry that others have followed. She consults globally with industry leaders by educating them how to include the cancer community. Besides making time for written articles and webinars she offers equine facilitated learning and activity sessions for the cancer community and veterans since there is a prevalence of significant psychological distress within these communities.