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Q&A: Obtaining First Class Medical After Cancer Treatment

By Penny Giovanetti, D.O., Manager, Aerospace Medical Specialties Division
Source: FAA Safety Briefing, May/June 2017

Q. Hello, I was diagnosed with large B cell, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer. I underwent an aggressive chemotherapy treatment with no radiation or surgery. I had just passed my first class medical a month before finding the cancer. As of two weeks ago my final PET scan showed that I was in complete remission and cancer free. I was never told that I couldn’t fly, but I had dismissed myself nevertheless. I had heard unofficially that cancer was not a disqualifying condition but the treatment was. What procedure should I proceed with to obtain my first class medical? It has been over seven months since my first class medical examination. I was a week and a half away from taking my multi engine ATP checkride. And now I would like to get back at it so I can get on with my flying career.

A. Thank you for making the appropriate decision not to fly while undergoing cancer treatment. You should see your AME for a new, first class medical exam and bring the following to your appointment: all records of your lymphoma diagnosis and treatment, your final PET scan results, and the current status report from your treating physician. Your AME will need to defer this exam, but after your initial special issuance, usually your AME will be authorized to issue in the future as long as your condition remains unchanged.

Send your questions to They will be forwarded to the Aerospace Medical Certification Division, without your name, and the answer will be published in an upcoming issue of FAA Safety Briefing.

Penny Giovanetti, D.O., received a bachelor’s degree from Stanford, a master’s in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine from the University of Iowa and a doctorate from Des Moines University. She completed a 27-year career as an Air Force flight surgeon. She is board certified in aerospace medicine, occupational medicine, and physical medicine/rehabilitation. She is also a Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Association and a private pilot.

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