Should you get a port?

The port is a small medical device which simplifies getting injections. In my opinion to get a port should be up to a patient. If your oncologist suggests one, do your research. I researched pros and cons about using it, then decided to get one. Here is my experience it.
I had 6 chemo therapy treatments last year and I did not have a port. When my cervical cancer reoccurred this year, my oncologist suggested to get a port. I was going to have 6 more chemo treatments and every week I was going to draw blood test. Last year I found out my veins are small and not easy to be find. My arms were bruised too many times. I had enough needle pain, so I decided to get a port.

The procedure was quick and easy. The only disturbing part was staying still under a sheet on the operation table about 45 minutes. There was no complication of implanting the port into my body. While under local anesthetic, they inserted the port under my skin, on my upper right chest, and then attached the tube into a vein near my heart. The first night I had a bit pain, but I took one acetaminophen, then pain faded. For a few days I was bothered with the existence of this object in my body, but there was not much point to whining, it was done. I now focused on how to live with the port. It took me a week to get used to this little bump in my chest.

Practical information about using port

I had a lot of question in my mind. I was not sure if I needed a port or not. I had to think about any potential side effects. I read some information about using ports and figured out that it helps patients, as well as nurses, who use the port to give chemo drugs. Basically a nurse sticks a special needle through my skin into the port to give my chemotherapy into my vein. Compare to 20 minutes of searching for a good vein.

Every third week I had chemo treatment ( total 6 ) and I get blood test every week. Each time the port was very useful. My chemo days were long, about 8 hours. I was at the clinic the whole day and the port supplied me a bit of comfort. I was able to use my both arms, which was a big deal. It is much harder to read, eat, using bathroom with one arm, when the other has a big needle.

You may have some questions about the port care:

– Does the port create a problem while taking a shower or a bath?
They told me, not to get it wet for 3 days after they implanted the port, so I obeyed that. Two weeks later, I even went to a hot tub, without any problem. They also warn you not to lift heavy objects in the first week. So stay away from strenuous exercise for a few weeks.

– Will it effect your sleep?
If you are sleeping on your stomach face down, the port will bother you. If you are sleeping on your side, I suggest to snuggle to a small pillow to rest your arm on, that helped me a lot. Chemo drugs and a new port can cause sleeplessness. I used melatonin for these nights and slept like a rock. It was much more effective than any sleeping pill and had no side effects. I am a light sleeper, so having an object on my body bothers me, especially when trying to sleep on my side. If you sleep like a log, then you have nothing to worry about.

– Does it hurt?
The first two days it hurt, I took a pain killer to ease up the pain. I could say generally after that the port gave me no pain. However for about two weeks the port area was tender. I tried to use my right arm gently. But third week, I was no longer sore. I would also recommend avoiding strong hugs a few weeks.

– How big the port is?
There are a few port models. A coin size device indeed, mine is the size of a quarter. Even if you wear a thin shirt, you can not see the bump on your chest. However if you wear a V neck shirt, it will show. Perhaps you may wear a scarf to hide it.

– Is it difficult to clean it?
When you shower or take a bath, you can wash it with soap in warm water without any problem. You should not scrub the area though. Do not forget the port needs to be flushed with heparin once a month when it is not being used regularly.

– Does the needle port hurt?
For a few seconds you might feel stinging pain. I would recommend to you 20 minutes before you go to your clinic or hospital, numb the port area on your skin with an anesthetic cream such as Lidocaine.

– How long you can you keep the port?
You need to discuss this with your doctor. Some people use the port for up to 7 years. If you decide to remove it, the procedure is simple. I would like to have mine removed probably in a few months after my next PET scan if all things go well.

In conclusion, I would recommend usage of the port. Because it avoids having arms and hands with lots of holes, bruises, and damaged veins due to heavy chemo treatment.
The most important thing you should keep in mind is keep your port clean and pay attention for side effects. Such as if you have a high fever, chest pain, trouble breathing, shoulder pain, or your port site is red, warm, and swollen, you should contact your doctor.

References: All about cervical cancer

SmartPort Brochure .pdf