Chemotherapy and Ports
(venous access devices):
Personally, I am an advocate
for medication ports for chemo for a number of reasons. First and foremost, even though I am a nurse, I HATE needle
sticks. And when you're receiving chemo, you get a lot of them. Typically, you have blood drawn before your chemo is
administered (the blood draw and chemo can usually be done in one stick at this appointment). You also generally have
blood drawn approximately 2 weeks after your chemo to check your blood counts (your red and white counts tend to be at their
lowest 2 weeks after your chemo).
Second, if you have lymph
nodes removed you are risk for a condition called lymphedema if you have needle sticks (IV's, blood draws, injections) or blood
pressures on your affected side. In my case, I had nodes removed from both sides so I didn't have much of an option.
Third, due to the "caustic"
nature of the various chemo drugs, they must use a pretty large vein to avoid having the medication go "Sub Q" (where it "extravasates"
or leaves the vein and leaks into surrounding tissue). This limits which veins they can use to administer chemo. I just
didn't want the added anxiety of the nurses having to find a suitable vein. I wanted them to be able to "plug" into me and
be done with it!!
Whether you choose to "port
or not to port," one absolute GODSEND for me was something called EMLA cream (available by prescription from your doctor).
It is a numbing cream that you apply at least 30 minutes prior to getting a needle stick. You use approximately the size of
a 25 cent piece right on the site where the needle stick will be done (easy to know when you have a port). You lightly apply
an occlusive dressing (such as Op-Site or Tegaderm) or, in a pinch, some plain old plastic wrap from your kitchen. Don't massage
the cream into your skin; leave the blob of it in one spot. You will NOT feel the needle stick!
There are many different
types of ports. Some are completely hidden under the skin (like the one I had--it resembled a plastic cap from a soda
bottle). Some are accessed from outside your body (a piece of it dangles from your chest or forearm/inner arm).
Here are links to some very
helpful websites that will help explain about ports. They are in no particular order.