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Cancer Care for Expats: What Help is Available?

Sharon Clarkson

Medical Insurance Nurse

Getting a cancer diagnosis is a scary experience, and can be more so when you’re not living in your home country. No two health systems are the same and working out what you need and where you can get it can be complicated, especially if you are living as an expat abroad.

As well as seeking out the standard medical cancer treatments, there are other services you may want to find, and having a good expat health insurance plan can make your journey a lot easier. Here are some of the main points to consider:


Genome testing

A major medical advance in cancer care has come from the study of genomics in recent years, which is the gathering and examination of genetic information from cancerous cells. This helps medical professionals diagnose the type of cancer affecting a patient and potentially opens up different treatment approaches.

Doctors now know there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for cancer treatment, and each case requires a tailored approach. Genome testing of the cancer cells after diagnosis can help medics create a more tailored treatment plan for each patient, with the aim of being able to provide the most effective treatment and best prognosis. So, make sure you talk to your doctor or consultant to find out more.

Emotional support

Facebook can be a useful tool when you’re living abroad. Whether you’re in Thailand, the UAE, Hong Kong or anywhere else in the world, there’ll be dozens of expatriate groups active on Facebook, including ones created specifically to connect people living with cancer to share tips, advice and local support.

Searching on Facebook for groups that are relevant to your circumstances can include Cancer Connect in Hong Kong, a Facebook Bangkok Breast Cancer group, and the general Expat Focus UAE group.

Most hospitals with oncology departments have internal cancer support groups, so make sure you ask your doctor for recommendations. In Thailand, for example, there’s the Bangkok Breast Cancer Support Group, run by expatriate volunteers, at the Queen Sirikit Center for Breast Cancer, Chulalongkorn Hospital.

Professional counselling with a registered psychologist or counsellor following the cancer treatment can also help provide you with essential practical and emotional tools to cope with the experience.

Getting a tailored diet plan

Unsurprisingly, what you consume during your cancer treatment is very important. The American Cancer Society advises: “you might need to change your diet to help build up your strength and withstand the effects of the cancer and its treatment.”

Consultations with a dietician mean you can have a diet plan tailored specifically for you and your type of cancer and treatment, boosting your wellbeing.

Hair loss and wigs

Some chemotherapy causes hair loss and it’s comforting for some cancer patients to purchase wigs during treatment or after it ends. Cancer Research UK recommends researching your ideal wig before you start treatment so it can be matched to your natural hair colour and texture.

Reconstructive and restorative surgery

Depending on the type of cancer, you maybe eligible for reconstructive surgery. For example, reconstructive surgery may be required after a mastectomy during breast cancer treatment, or to replace tissue removed in treatment for skin cancer.

Support and cover

While a cancer diagnosis can be a scary experience, survival rates are higher, and more improved cancer treatments are being brought out each year. Cancer care for expats living abroad for peace of mind, make sure your international health insurance plan will cover your treatment for a cancer diagnosis while living overseas, and provides the reassurance of a strong support network at home and work so you have the support you need at a challenging time. Find out more about what our health plans cover here