More Helpful Port Information
The Masked Author
Here is my port(s) history. If you can use anything from it, please do so.
I am now on my 3rd port in my BC history. The first was inserted after my first chemo 11 yrs. ago. The nurses had trouble finding a vein and suggested a port. A while after chemo was completed I had it removed. Four years later I was dx. with BC in the other breast and had surgery for another port. Both of these ports were difficult. Didn't get blood return and were very positional. The time it took added time to my chemo txs. I had a 7 month period of NED and was only getting Aredia. It was suggested that since the port was difficult and I was getting infused only once a month they would work with the veins. So the port was removed.
Awhile late I developed lymphedema and I was told to get another port. I remember being very annoyed that they told a Stage IV patient to remove the port and now I had to do the surgery all over again. But it was a blessing in disguise. This 3rd port is wonderful. I have it over 3 years and it has never failed to give instant blood return. I use it at least once a week. I use it for chemo infusion, blood draws, contrast for CAT Scans, etc.
Why the difference? All were the same ports although the 3rd is a double lumen. My theory is the surgeon who puts it in. I could be wrong on this. The first 2 were put in by the same surgeon, a fine surgeon. He did both of my mastectomies.
By the time I needed the 3rd port he had moved away. I told the surgeon I was using for the 3 port the problems with the previous two. He said he could stitch it in place but I would have a day or two more pain in recovering. I went along with that, it was no big deal. I love my port and no one will take this one out unless I run into some difficulty. The only problem I had with this port was after my stereotatic brain radiation.
It clogged, both sides. I panicked. At my tx. center they had a drug, which was in study or trial, for unclogging. I had to sign to have it used. I don't know the name of the drug but it worked. Almost like a roto-rooter. I had each side of the port done a week apart.
Hope some of this is helpful to you.
Great article, very informative...I have had a port for about six months, but was still reassuring to read of others' experiences with ports.
You ALL did a great job telling about the ports. J. C. thanks for telling us of your traveling experience and self-infusion. Sounds like something I would do.
Alexandra, good job, this article will be very helpful to many who fear having one.
Good job on telling others about ports. I have had mine since June 98 and it will never come out. My veins are so small they can't even find them. But in the last year my port will not give blood. I flushes great and can take the CT dye, transfusions, & other meds from IV's. The one thing they gave me to thin my blood was baby aspirin.I am allergic to coumadin
Alexandra, your port information is very interesting to me as I have a relatively new port. So far, it cannot be used to draw blood. There are other port patients at my hospital with this same problem. The chemo nurses say sometimes they start working after a few months. Do many port users have this problem?
Never had a problem with the port, only when they took it out ten months later. It had adhered to everything and took forever to take out. I was almost ready to tell them to just leave it. It sure saved my arms from all the needles.
Jean Santa Maria
I've had about 7 of them, some very different than others, but I've had the experience of an "outside" port and an under the skin port. Just from a germ point of view, the outside ports have a greater tendency for infection. When you have an outside port, it has to be flushed every few days and great care has to be taken that it doesn't dislodge. I know someone once who was cleaning her kitchen table and her leads that were hanging out got caught in the split in the table where you put the leaf and she ripped it right out. She put pressure on it and went to the hospital right away and was totally fine, but it is a consideration.
Right now I have a small pass-port (it's about the size of a quarter - maybe a bit smaller), under my skin, in the area between where my breast would be and my armpit. It's noticible a little now because I've lost a great deal of weight, but prior to that you couldn't see it at all. It's a little plastic bump. This has been a great conveience to me. It doesn't interfere with the seatbelt (something you should think about for placement), and clothes don't bother it.
I had a portacath for two years, and for the delivery of chemo, especially multiple hour deliveries, they are wonderful devices. It is very painful to sit in the chemo chair and watch the nurse try to find veins for chemo delivery with some patients. With small veins, the nurses have to take turns trying to insert the IV, and one really feels sorry for these patients. If one is going to have chemo and has the opportunity to have a portacath, go for it.
Just a report. Caution: I would take my situation with a grain of salt as it seems I do nothing without incident! Port was implanted 11/9 as planned and chest xray revealed proper placement. When I got to my oncologists office 11/20 for Aredia treatment, three nurses (four pokes) were not able to access my port. Back to radiology.
Radiologist accessed and xray revealed that a small layer of skin has already grown over the diaphragm (here I thought I was getting a port placed!). Anyway, the radiologist indicated that this generally doesn't happen for at least six weeks out and that it was "early" for this to happen. Hence, the port probably won't be lasting as long as expected, either.
The wait took so long in radiology, I had to reschedule the aredia for yesterday. As if this wasn't enough, the hospital valet locked my keys IN my car! But I am happy to report that yesterday's infusion was without incident, smoothly and one poke!
Good luck to you.
I am now receiving aredia in my veins and it has been almost next to impossible to find good veins. To draw blood or receive the aredia it takes about five different sticks to find a decent vein. I too, am considering a port-a-cath !
My mother had a port-a-cath and found it to be much easier when receiving her chemotherapy. She was able to leave the doctor's office and complete her treatment at home, she also learned how to flush out the port-a-cath. I believe she only used it for infusions, not blood draws. Her port-a-cath was about the size of a quarter and was placed on her upper breast area close to the shoulder. It never interfered with her clothing styles and she was a frequent swimmer. She also had no problems with infection and she has no problems with weak veins today!
Constance in Texas
Hi Alexandra ... The site is absolutely terrific as I knew it would be.
I had Septic Emboli in my lung. This is a fancy name for an infection that had been introduced to my lungs through my port. I had to be hospitalized and was on an antibiotic IV pump for six weeks.
I am new to this site, but I just wanted to add that my port has been a Godsend! I have had two. The first one was put in for chemo to treat breast cancer and was located just below my collarbone. It was completely under the skin. It was removed because I was not very good about going and getting it flushed monthly and a clot developed at the end of the tube. My second one was put in my upper right thigh and again is completely under the skin. It was put in because of bone mets located in the collarbone. I would highly recommend your mother getting this done. The only drawback I did suffer was when I went in for other surgical procedures, the hospital staff didn't know how to access the port so it wasn't used for IV's at those times. I also run into this problem when I go to docs other than my onc. Those nurses don't know how to access the site either. Still, I am very glad I have had them put in. Also, I am not sure, but these ports last for some time. I have had mine in for about a year and there has been no talk of removing it and putting in a new one. One more note, I also have a double port. There are two access points that are side by side. It allows for the treatment to still be given it for some reason the other side has a problem.
Hope this Helps,
Sheila Werner in MI
I just received my port. I wish I had understood their value sooner, as I've already lost two very good veins. And it does make the administration of chemo so much easier! I had chemo #3 last Monday and it didn't hurt half as much. My hand is still in pain from #2, so I am doubly grateful.
I must say, though, I was surprised at how hard it was on me to have the port implanted. I've been exercising with a personal trainer and have worked full time since a week after my hysterectomy, so I consider myself pretty tough. Yet this surgery knocked me off my feet! I suppose I was closer to the physical edge than I realized - not so far from a topple. Of course, having surgery during the middle of chemo didn't improve my recovery effort. I was down for about three days.
I still feel the discomfort and have troubles sleeping because I am so conscious of the port - but then it's only been a week since surgery. Hopefully, I will begin to adjust soon. Even so, I still would not change my decision. I can't afford to lose any more veins and this does make chemo so much easier!
Probably the only thing I would do differently is check ahead to make sure my surgeon had done lots and lots of these surgeries successfully! The surgery being done on an out patient basis led me to believe it would be very minor. Anything to do with the chest is not minor! And I would have felt better know that the surgeon didn't do any unnecessary mauling! :)
Ovarian cancer (endometroid adenocarcinoma) dx 9/29/00 Stage IIIA
Taxol/carbol 6 cycles every 3 weeks (on 3rd chemo)
Mother had breast cancer
I requested a port be inserted after surgery because I've always had terrible veins and I wanted to be sure access would be available when I was scheduled for chemo. Mine is located under my right collar bone and completely under the skin. After the initial healing I usually forget its there!! I do nothing to it ...... shower right over it. I finished chemo in July but decided to keep it for a while longer. The only maintenance is to have the chemo nurse flush it every 6-7 weeks. It's been GREAT!!
I would recommend that you ask for a script for Emla cream. You apply this about an hour before the port is to be accessed and the area is numb ....... pressure no pain!
I agree we need to learn as much as possible and people with first hand experience are often the best teachers!
I like your website about ports. It has some good information. I've had my port for 3 years and I've been in remission since chemo ended 3/98. It's called an Omega Port. A vascular surgeon implanted it in outpatient surgery which I considered pretty easy. The port has never given me any problems. It's very easy to draw blood from as well as for infusions. I have CA125's drawn every 4 months through it and I have it flushed every 6 weeks or so other than that. During chemo I came down with an ecoli infection. I was hospitalized on IV antibiotics for five days. I wanted to come home but needed to continue the IV antibiotics. A needle was left in the port and taped with a line attached. I was taught how to access this line to administer my own antibiotics. I was happy to do this as it got me out of the hospital!
I found that a few times after having my port flushed, I would come down with a fever that night. I was tested for infection in the port and nothing was found. Finally, when I went in to get it flushed again, the nurse (who usually did it) tried drawing blood first (and disposing of it) before flushing with saline and then heparin. Ever since this has been done, I have had no fevers. My take on it is this: the old heparin which is left in the port between flushes was being flushed into my body and I think this caused a slight fever.
By the way, there is no good substitute for a GOOD nurse who KNOWS how to access a port. I have never used emla cream or needed any topical pain killer before the stick. The nurses I have are experts and almost never hurt me.
I plan to have the port removed if my next check up proves to be good. I will probably have the same surgeon take it out.
Hope this helps,
I have had two ports one in my chest and one in my abdomen. The one in my abdomen was removed a year ago because it got infected and the one in my chest is my life line. My veins are shot after 8 different types of chemo's (can't even count how many times I had them) I have had no problems with my port and it has been in for 2 1/2 years and my blood is also drawn from that. I had a pick line in my arm but that formed a blood clot, love my port.
I, too, had a Hickman, and the entry site stayed sore and irritated. I was supposed to wash the area daily with Betadine. Turns out I was sensitive to the Betadine, and the irritation cleared up when I began to use alcohol on alternate days. If you are using Betadine, ask your dr. about an alternative.
I don't think Hickman's are used much anymore, however. My oncologist has switched to the under the skin type
Love and prayers,
I would just add this: they are supposed to create a "sterile field" by placing sterile paper (napkin type things) around your port area prior to doing any of this. And, I also watch them carefully after they remove the needles to be sure they're cleaning the area properly with sterile stuff.
When I had the pre op appointment for surgery on my right breast in November I inquired about using the port for the general anesthetic. I was told that the OR did not have a nurse trained to access ports but if I went first to the cancer clinic and had my port accessed, then sure, they could use the port for anesthetic. I was so happy! I sure didn't want them to use my left arm because it has lymphedema and they couldn't use the right arm because the veins there had been pretty much destroyed by past chemos.
Another note about that surgery ...
I was having was a mastectomy on the right. The anesthetist couldn't use my right arm to monitor blood pressure because it was too close to the surgery site. Because of left arm lymphedema I convinced them to put the blood pressure cuff on my leg at the calf. I never would have known to ask/demand that if I had not learned this from members of the IBC support list.
Hi...I just wanted to add my two cents about ports. I had my port inserted two months ago (Jan '01). I am very skinny (5'11" and 125 pounds) so the port sticks out really far....in fact the six inch tube that goes from the port underneath my clavicle is clearly visible also. It's disgusting looking. I keep bumping it on things like file cabinets & furniture. I cannot lay on my stomach. Because I have a very physical job, the port "rides" on top of my chest muscle all day long so by day's end I sometimes develop shooting pains in that area. It doesn't help that I'm right-handed & the port is on the right side. There must have been a nerve that was irritated or damaged when it was inserted because I also have a shooting pain down the inside of my breast that goes all the way to the nipple when the port is being accessed...and at other times, too. I had to have a mastectomy two years ago & opted not to have breast reconstruction, however, with the port's placement, I can't even wear a bra to disguise the fact that I don't have a left breast. The port lays perfectly beneath the bra strap or just inside, depending on what bra I try to wear, so that when I take off the bra, I'm in for several hours of pain. I am miserable with this port. If you have no fat on you frame, find out your other options....PLEASE!!!!!
There is a danger to having a port as I found out on Friday. I've had mine for over 2 years and it was a blessing having my chemo the only problem was with mine could never get a blood return and I had to lay back for it to flow into me.
I had to start chemo again this Friday. They started and it didn't feel right to me but I thought it was just because it hadn't been accessed for a year. When they started to put more juice into me I felt this huge lump under my skin and they immediately stopped. To make a long story short I ended up in the Emergency Room for Emergency surgery the tube that goes into the vein from the port came out and some of the drugs got into my tissue. And apparently these drugs eat your tissue so they had to take the tissue out and now I have to be watched for a bit to make sure they got it all. I have 2 incisions and a dimple where they took the tissue out. So people should be warned about this.