What to Know About Ports
In many cases, chemo will be administered through a small needle inserted in a vein in your hand or lower arm. And sometimes, it is given through a port, an implanted device that allows drugs to be given intravenously (through an IV) without repeated needle sticks. It’s a small, round disc made of plastic or metal that’s surgically inserted under the skin, usually in the upper chest. The port becomes the point of entry for all your chemo infusions. It also allows your nurse to draw blood at any time during your treatments.
How is the port implanted?
Getting a port requires a surgery that typically takes less than one hour. While you’re under anesthesia, a surgeon or interventional radiologist will make an incision on your chest and lower neck so that the port can be placed inside the body.
Pros to a port
- Comfort; all drugs can be given through the port so you’ll no longer require needles
- Drugs can be administered slowly, which helps minimize side effects
- Lower chance that chemo meds will leak into your tissue, causing itching, redness and other skin problems
- No special provisions needed when getting wet (i.e., while bathing or swimming)
- Blood and platelet transfusions can be easily administered
Cons to a port
- Requires surgery to implant the port
- Risk of infection, bruising and blood clots
- May cause a temporary abnormal heart rhythm
- Temporary tenderness after surgery
How is the port removed?
When it’s no longer needed (when you’ve gone into remission), your doctor or nurse will remove the port. It’s generally a painless procedure, and local anesthesia is only sometimes required. A small incision will be made over the port location and the port will be pulled out. The wound will be stitched and covered. You may temporarily experience a bit of tenderness at the site.
Call your healthcare provider immediately if…
- you develop a fever
- you notice any redness, swelling or pain
- there is any drainage around your port
If a port is not right for you…
Ask your healthcare provider about alternative access devices, such as a PICC line (a long, flexible, thin tube inserted in a vein to provide intravenous access to treatments) and a central line (a long, hollow tube inserted under the skin of your chest into a vein).