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What are some transportation issues related to cancer care?

During treatment the person with cancer may need to go to the hospital or clinic often over the course of many weeks. Because treatment can cause weakness, pain, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting, he or she may not be able to drive him or herself. Added to that, you may be in charge of driving other family members. For example, you may have children you need to take to school or lessons.

How can I deal with the transportation issues related to cancer care?

Here are some tips:

Step 1: Identify the problem
Write down on a calendar who needs a ride, when, and where. Be sure to include lab draws, treatment, other tests or appointments, and family activities like school, lessons, work, etc.

Step 2: Figure out who can help
List all available transportation options. Be sure to include family, friends, neighbors, church members, public transportation, volunteer driver programs (through churches or hospitals), hospital vans, other caregiving families that might carpool, private door-through-door escort services, and paratransit (public transportation for the elderly and disabled). You can find more information at the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center.

Step 3: Make it easy for people to help
Ask others to let you know when they might be able to help drive. Then, make specific requests. For example, instead of, "Can you help me take Bob to doctor appointments?" Try, "Can you drive Bob to and from his chemotherapy next Monday at 3:00pm?" You can also ask your friends and family to help you make the transportation schedule and/or make calls to line up rides.

Step 4: Get organized
Print maps to the different appointment locations. On the top of the map, write the time of the appointment, the name of the building where the appointment is located, the room number, and a contact number for the appointment. Let the person driving know where to park. Keep a folder with multiple copies of the maps so you always have them on hand.

Step 5: Let the patient know the plan
Talk to the patient when making driving plans, and make sure the plan is OK with him or her. You don’t want the person you’re caring for to feel he or she is being "shuffled" around.

Step 6: Make a travel pack
Make a travel bag with:

  • The patient's medication list
  • Insurance cards
  • Identification
  • Small amount of money
  • Personal items like house key and cellphone
  • Your contact information
  • Other emergency contact information
  • A snack in case of delays
  • A bottle of water
  • Wipes, tissues or paper towels
  • Incontinence products (if needed)
  • Change of clothes

Be sure to give this to the driver.

What about when I just can’t get the patient to an appointment?

Sometimes, in spite of your best efforts, you won’t be able to get the patient to an appointment. Let the doctor's office or clinic know right away. They may be able to reschedule without a missed-appointment fee.


  • Schwartz, A.J. & Jenkins, C.L. (2020). Barriers and facilitators to cancer treatment adherence for older Rural African Americans: Understanding the experience from the view of patients and their caregivers. Journal of Family Social Work, 23(1), 20-34.
  • Transportation: What caregivers need to know. (2023). AARP website. Available at: