Patients Travelling Overseas for Treatment
Traveling oversees for Proton Therapy treatment may seem daunting, but more cancer patients are doing so and are turning the treatment period into an adventure.
Curtis Poling, a former Proton Therapy patient and survivor of prostate cancer, was instrumental in getting the first foreign patients treated in Korea at the National Cancer Center (NCC). Poling still travels there about every two months to help foreign patients get acclimated.
The limited number of proton centers often necessitates travel for treatment. And when a patient does not have healthcare insurance, traveling overseas can be a more cost-effective solution, especially if that person would have to travel a long distance to a Proton Therapy center anyway.
While cost and the scarcity of centers may be the ultimate reasons for the decision to be treated abroad, Poling says the level of comfort one has while in treatment is crucial. “After being diagnosed with cancer, you may feel isolated, depressed and confused,” said Poling.
“So it’s important that from the moment a center approves a patient, staff members guide them all the way from picking them up at the airport to taking them to their accommodations, providing a tour of local shopping and staying with them through the whole treatment process.” says Poling. NCC helps orient new patients to public transit, currency, and other logistics. Patients are driven from the airport, taken to hospital on their first day, and are provided with transportation if public transit is not feasible.
“What am I going to do with all my free time?” is a common question patients have when considering overseas treatment and travel.
“Not that it’s going to be a ‘radiation vacation,’ but patients have to take into account what their free time will look like,” says Poling. “In a foreign country, patients are able to take advantage of museums, shows, shopping and tourist attractions. Some of the patients at the NCC Korea have become so busy, they’ve extended their stay.”
As a cancer patient overseas, it is important to remember that your culture, cuisine and customs may be different from the country you’ll be treated in.
“Don’t expect it to be like your own country,” he said. “If you go with that approach, you can really enjoy yourself. But if you expect everything to be the same, you’ll be sorely disappointed.”