CHEMOTHERAPY BY PORT ACCESS OR IV INFUSIONS
With chemotherapy, even if you have great veins to start with, your veins will deteriorate over time. Finding a vein for access will get harder and harder as time goes by. You’ll start to dread going in for your infusions and nurses will hide when they see your car pull into the parking lot. Really…..some will.
I was sitting next to a chemo patient a few months back. She had apparently been through 3 courses of chemo without a port. Each time she came in it took 3 or 4 different nurses about 5 sticks each to successfully find a vein. The last couple of times, no one had any luck at all and this was to be her last chemo infusion. After several unsuccessful attempts by every nurse in the office, she finally looks up and said: “why don’t you just chop off my arm and stick the needle into the stump”? Everyone was rolling on the floor laughing, including the patient and every patient around her. She was sent home and I honestly don’t know what happened with her.
Who says chemo infusions can’t be fun??? Actually, the nurses at my Oncologist’s office who do the chemo infusions are stand up comics. They create a lighthearted atmosphere in the room that is very welcoming. They turn a bad situation into a tolerable one with their caring, compassion and humor. I can’t say enough about each and every one of them. But I digress.
In my opinion, there is just no decision to make. Get a port right away and avoid all of this torture. Getting a port is a minor outpatient surgery. They implant a small port under the skin, usually on the left side of your chest just above your heart. General anesthetic is not necessary, just a local anesthetic and tranquilizers. You’ll be aware of what’s going on, but you won’t care. If you want more of an anesthetic, they’ll accommodate you. No one wants you to be fearful or uncomfortable. A general anesthetic just creates a longer post operative stay and someone to drive you home.
If you have difficult veins to locate for any reason, the port takes care of this problem. One stick and they’re in. No more digging around your arm. Almost everything can be done through the port including blood draws. The only restriction is that only an RN or an MD can access a port. Also, some of the tests that you’ll be getting, including the MUGA scan cannot be done through the port since it is so close to your heart. I’m not exactly sure of the theory behind this, but this is what I was told when I went in for my MUGA.
After each infusion, the nurse will flush the port with saline solution and heparin. This will happen each and every time. A weird side effect of flushing the port with saline solution is that some people can taste the saline which is not pleasant at all. If that happens, a way around that would be to do a slower saline flush. This seems to cut down on that nasty taste in your mouth.
If you want more scientific information regarding a port insertion, click HERE. If you need more information, just Google “Port for Chemotherapy” and hundreds if not thousands of sites will pop up. Just know that this is a simple, pain free procedure that I highly recommend. Of course, ask your Oncologist first. Don’t do anything without MD approval. You never know, your Oncologist may have certain requirements of the type of port needed, a surgeon to recommend, or some other port restriction that you should know about.