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A chemo port on the skin with a question mark

Have You Considered Getting a Fake Vein for Chemo?

Yesterday during my treatment I met a lady who was worried about getting “stuck” so that she could get her chemotherapy. The time before when she was there, they didn’t get a successful IV inserted until they had attempted six times. I overheard her tell a chemo nurse that she was planning to get a port soon, but was not looking forward to it at all.

Needle sticks or a port?

I had to speak up after the stick was done – first attempt! – and she was alone again. Five years ago I was sitting where she was – toying with the idea of getting a port, but not at all sure I wanted to take that step. Today, I am an evangelist for them.

When I was first diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, I knew nothing. I blindly went along with everything my doctor recommended, never questioning anything. For unknown reasons, he did not suggest I consider a port … so I didn’t.

It isn’t that I didn’t realize I had been diagnosed with a very serious disease, but your mind can help you play games with yourself. I would watch others in the large chemo room getting their treatments through a port and think, “Wow. I’m glad I am not so sick that I need one of those things.”

Protecting my veins

The lady I conversed with yesterday said something similar. She said she had been putting off getting a port for quite some time. Psychologically, she just isn’t ready to admit that she needs one, she said.

I’m not sure what kind of chemo she is getting, but all that happened by my thinking I didn’t need a port is ruined veins. Now, when I need an IV, it is very difficult for nurses to find a useable vein.

I told my new friend that I had a love-hate relationship with my port for a couple of years. I wanted it hidden. Like a bald head, it sort of screams “cancer” to me. It looks odd there in your chest. The blissfully uninformed public must wonder what it is.

On the other hand, the port makes blood draws and infusions a piece of cake! One stick and done every time! Plus, if you are really sensitive and need it, there is a Lidocaine deadening cream you can rub on your skin prior to getting your port accessed so that you don’t feel anything at all when it is pricked.

So what is a port anyway?

Some people might be wondering what a port even is. There was certainly a time when I didn’t know!

A port is like an artificial vein that is implanted just under your skin. Running from the port to a large vein near your heart is a small plastic tube (catheter). The drugs we need to combat our cancer can’t harm the plastic catheter like they can our actual veins.

The author, Donna, shares a picture of the port in her chestMy port is on my right side, positioned in such a way that bra straps don’t bother it (but seatbelts can). It shows when I wear certain V-necked or lower-cut shirts and blouses. That really bothered me for awhile. Now, I still prefer for it to be hidden, but I’m no longer fanatical about it.

My port is triangular, but I understand that some are oval or circular. Your doctor will know what kind to prescribe for you. I’m no expert (or any kind of medical personnel), but I recommend that you consider a power port of some kind. The reason is that power ports can be used during imaging scans, such as CT and PET scans, when you need to get injected contrasts. Without a power port, you will still need to get an IV for those.

A psychological adjustment

It was a psychological adjustment to admit that (1) yes, I have cancer and (2) yes, treatments are going to go on for a long time to come and (3) yes, I need a vehicle by which to receive those treatments that will save the veins in my arms. I waited too long. My veins are horrible now. But, with the port that is usually a non-issue. One simple prick and I’m set to go for my blood draw and immunotherapy infusion.

If you don’t have a port, I suggest that you at least consider talking to your oncologist about getting one. I really think you will be glad you did.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • DebbiRose
    10 months ago

    In 1984, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Even before this, I had terrible veins. I got my broviac — an external, percutaneous port — even before my official diagnosis.
    It was in for just over a year. Since then, I had a portacath (under the skin) installed for about five years. Unfortunately, I ended up with sepsis and the port had to be removed.
    Without the port, I had KCl (potassium) pushed too fast, which destroyed my one reliable vein.
    Because of post-op issues, I now demand a PICC line before any surgery; otherwise the regular IV will blow or infiltrate. The last surgery without a PICC, resulted in an arm the size of thigh and four attempts at finding a good vein with that light that’s supposed to highlight veins. I finally had the nurse call my doctor; who said I could manage without the IV, if I’d drink enough.
    That time the anesthesiologist was “too busy” to insert the PICC, and the nurse said I had so much scar tissue around subclavian vein that she refused to put one in. I let myself be bullied, and will never let it happen again.
    I was just recently diagnosed with carcinoid tumors in my lung, gut, and liver. Luckily the chemo agent (octreotide/Sandostatin) isn’t administered IV, by by shot — not sure if IM or subq.
    Sorry this is so long. It’s nice to have a community, something which didn’t exist in 1984/5 as a 27 year old.

  • anrean
    10 months ago

    I am surprised that the chemo nurse didn’t suggest a port. After too many attempts to access a vein, it was the chemo nurse that suggested calling my oncologist and getting a port. There I was, receiving my first chemo and on the cell phone with my oncologist requesting a port!! The port was put in in 2009, and with proper maintenance it has lasted and thankfully made the innumerable scans that come with multiple primary cancers so much easier! I even got to watch while the surgeon placed it!!

  • PeteConaty
    10 months ago

    I just don’t know how to thank you or this group. Now I have another question for the doctors before all this starts. A neighbor told me don’t get a port cause of infraction. I just don’t know anything about it. But your group are opening my eyes. Thanks again

  • Donna Fernandez moderator author
    10 months ago

    Oh, Pete, i am so happy to hear that you are benefiting from the articles and our experiences! That truly makes me very happy.

    Please let us know how you are doing!!! I am glad you are doing research and learning so that you can be a true partner in your care.

    Best of luck!! You are in my thoughts!


  • Donna Fernandez moderator author
    12 months ago

    I have been so lucky with my port. The nurses love it because it is so easy.

    I love your teddy bear idea!!

  • MotherT
    1 year ago

    My first port was placed by an inexperienced Dr and did not “seat” properly. It was so hard to use I opted to have it replaced and have had my second for 17 months.. It is slightly tipped but I have found that the oncology nurses are pros st accessing even the difficult ones. I had one chemo treatment directly through the veins and the area and tissue was irritated for quite a while. I am very protective of my port and learned about what flushes were necessary at what times because I found that nurses other than oncology nurses were not as familiar with using ports. I also found that the cute little seatbelt strap wraps used on infant car seats work wonderfully to provide a bit of protection on regular seatbelts .I have a cute teddy bear that is wrapped around my seatbelt to cushion my port. It never fails to make me smile!

  • Jeffrey Poehlmann moderator
    12 months ago

    Thank you for sharing your story, @mothert! It is important to know the ins and outs of all the accouterments we must deal with — and I love the tip about your seatbelt teddy bear.

    Thinking of you –
    Jeffrey, team member

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