Mobile cancer patients get extra help
The holiday season has come, and for the millions of travelers who leave town for some rest and relaxation, one stop can slow the excitement: airport security. Standing in long lines, removing shoes and belts, looking at body images, metal detectors and, in some cases, inspection is inconvenient for most travelers. But for many cancer patients, safety testing presents physical and emotional challenges. Touching an ostomy bag or being asked to lift clothes at a busy airport to expose vents, drains or bandages can be embarrassing for some and traumatic for others. That’s why it’s important to know that help is available to make the screening process easier and less stressful for cancer patients and their caregivers.
Recognizing the cost to travelers with medical conditions and disabilities, the Federal Government’s Transportation Security Administration launched the TSA Cares Program, complete with a toll-free helpline, 877-787-2227. Passengers can call the number to inquire about alternative screening options for certain circumstances, or to arrange with a trained passenger support specialist to assist them through the security process.
TSA Program Tips
The TSA offers these tips to help the program run smoothly:
- Be specific about what kind of help you need.
- Call 72 hours before your flight.
- Find out the opening hours of the helpline. The line is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends and holidays.
- Take advantage of TSA Cares social media platforms. Live support is available 365 days a year Twitter using the ID @AskTSA – weekdays 8am-10pm and 9am-7pm on weekends and holidays. Travelers can also submit questions to the TSA via Facebook Messenger on the agency’s Facebook page.
- Notify the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) if you are not provided with a special screening, as all airports must have this capability.
Those who haven’t called ahead and don’t want to discuss their medical condition in front of strangers have another option: TSA notification cards. The traveler’s medical condition is written on the card and given to the TSA employee. The card is designed as a way to alert TSA personnel cautiously to a traveler’s medical condition, allowing the examination to be conducted in private. The card does not exempt anyone from screening and will not necessarily speed up the screening process, but it does provide a confidential and respectful way to notify officers at the checkpoint of the need for additional facilities.
Because TSA Cares has proven to be a valuable resource for cancer patients, but knowing that downloading one more form can be stressful for patients already struggling with juggling, Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) provides laminated notification cards to patients in need. “We’ve been doing this for three years,” says Jenny Dodd, director of travel logistics at our hospital near Chicago. “Instead of asking our patients to browse and print the TSA website, we do it for them.”
Additional Tips from TSA
The TSA offers these additional tips for cancer patients:
- Before beginning the examination, tell the TSA official if you have an external medical device, such as a port, feeding tube, insulin pump, or ostomy bag, and where it is located. You can provide the employee with a TSA notification card or other medical documentation if you prefer.
- The TSA has standardized screening procedures for various medical conditions and disabilities, including allowing a passenger with an ostomy bag to do their own research. After that, the passenger’s hands are checked for traces of explosives. The passenger may still be required to undergo a standard physical search of areas of the body not connected to the stoma bag. The TSA provides specific information for different situations.
- If you would like a companion or caregiver traveling with you to stay with you during the assessment, please notify the TSA official. TSA gives you the right to have your travel companion certify your rating.
- Breast prostheses and bras are medically necessary and can be worn during the evaluation. Patients will not be required to remove them.