Ports are ImPORTant! Just what you need, something else to add to your stressful situation. But wait, having a port can be your new best friend. All a port does is give easy, instant access to your system, rather than using your precious veins.
First, a port must be surgically inserted, and really they don’t fully knock you out for this (but you remember nothing) and it only takes 15 minutes. Most ports are inserted under the skin on the front side of your right shoulder. Even though your incision is not healed, you can begin accessing your port within days. Your skin will completely heal over the port site. There is nothing for you to take care of after it heals.
Why do you access a port? Mostly for delivery of chemo. It also is perfect for any blood draws, contrast for scans, IV antibiotics, during surgery or fluids, if you need them. Nurses love ports. It makes their job so so much easier. When the port is accessed (aka hooked up) the nurse uses a super sterile pack to clean and attach tubing for your treatment. Cream, what cream?? Be sure to ask for a prescription for Lidocaine cream. It numbs the area so you feel absolutely nothing when they access it. 30 minutes before your appointment to access your port, put a nice sized dollop on the skin that is over your port. Place a piece of Press-n-seal Saran Wrap (about 6” x 6” square or larger) over your cream and skin. This protects your clothing. Nurses will remove this and wipe the area for you. Have no fear, if you forget the cream, yes there is a slight stick, however it is nothing like getting an IV in your arm!
The good news is this saves your veins. Veins do not really like chemo. Some people say it hurts more to get chemo and fluids through your veins vs your port. This usually is because of the small size of your veins and the speed at which they have the pump set. If you do use your veins and it hurts, ask your nurse to slow down the pump speed.
Once you finish chemo, your only responsibility is to go to your infusion center or hospital and have your pump flushed with saline every 4 to 6 weeks. This kind of primes the pump, so to say, and keeps the lines clear so your port is ready to use when needed. If you are having chemo regularly, you are getting your port flushed at the end of each treatment.
Should you have your port removed when you are finished? I get asked this question all the time. My theory is I use it for scans every 3 to 6 months. Plus, in reality, I’m the only one that really knows it’s there. Yes, there is a little bump that can be seen when I wear a lightweight top or an athletic tank, but who cares? I also have visible freckles, wrinkles, graying roots and plenty of other things to keep people’s eyes busy.
Love your port. It really does make the situation much more pleasant.