Cancer treatment can mean getting many needle pricks. IV medication? Poke. IV fluids? Poke. Blood sample? Poke. Dye injection for a PET scan? Poke. All those pokes can take a toll on your veins -- and your nerves if you don’t love needles.
A chemo port gives health care workers one-stop access to your veins: They poke the port, not your skin. It offers all the benefits of treatment without the discomfort, and it reduces your risk of infection and skin irritation.
What a Chemo Port Is Like
Also called an implanted port, port-a-cath or medi-port, a chemo port has two parts: the port and the catheter.
The port is a quarter-sized plastic or metal disc. (If you have the metal kind, don’t worry: It won’t set off metal detectors). The middle part of the port, a rubber piece called the access site, holds the needle in place when you receive treatment, medication, or have blood drawn.
A catheter, or thin tube, connects the port to a large vein in your body. The chemo port sits underneath your skin, just below your collarbone.
What Happens When You Get a Chemo Port
Your chemo port is implanted during an outpatient procedure, meaning that you don’t have to stay in a hospital for the procedure. It usually takes 30-45 minutes. Expect to be awake but medicated to help you relax. You’ll get a local anesthetic to numb your neck and chest areas where your surgeon will make cuts and insert the port.
You might notice swelling, soreness, or bruising in the area around your port after the procedure. To help it heal, don’t wear anything tight in that area and don’t lift anything heavy for a week.
Will I Be Able to Feel My Chemo Port?
Yes. The chemo port raises your skin about a half-inch in your chest. It feels like a small round or triangle-shaped bump.
Will Other People Be Able to See My Chemo Port?
In most cases, no, though it depends on the shape and tightness of your clothes.
Caring for a Chemo Port
When your port is in use, a see-through bandage will cover the needle. You don’t need a bandage when the port isn’t in use, and you should treat the skin over it just like the rest of your skin.
If you don’t use your port for 4 weeks, it needs to be flushed. Only a health care worker can do this. Flushing your port ensures blood or medicine doesn’t clog it up.
Call your doctor if you have pain, swelling, or bruising at your port’s site; if pus or fluid is coming out of the opening in your skin where the port goes; or if that area looks irritated or feels tender or hot.
How Long Do I Need My Port?
Whether you use it regularly or not, your port can stay put for weeks, months, or years. When you don’t need it anymore, your doctor can remove it during an outpatient procedure.