What is a Chemo Port?


A chemotherapy port, sometimes referred to as a mediport, cancer port, or portacath, is a vascular access device that is implanted under the skin so that people with cancer can be given chemotherapy. A power port is a port that enables patients to receive IV therapy as well as contrast CT scans.

For more information on chemotherapy read our guide: How WhatNexters Prepared for Chemotherapy.

Chemo Port

Over a thousand WhatNexters have shared their firsthand experiences with chemotherapy ports. We encourage you to browse through their experiences, along with questions others have asked around chemotherapy ports.

We also recommend reading our blog post, To Port or Not to Port, where we summarize the advantages and disadvantages of getting a port based on the opinions of those living with cancer.

Below is a summary of many of the things WhatNexters have wanted to know, along opinions shared by various WhatNexters on the topic of cancer ports; The following information should not be substituted for medical advice.

Chemo Port Placement

A port is usually placed surgically under the skin of the chest or upper arm. Some WhatNexters have had to choose between port placement either in their arm or chest. Conditions for port location and implant vary from patient to patient; it is okay to be nervous about your port placement. The best way to know what to expect is to talk to your doctor about what specific options for a port apply to you.

Chemo Port Insertion and Port Surgery

WhatNexters have said that during their surgery they were either placed under local anesthesia or general anesthesia. Surgery is different for everyone. WhatNexters are sometimes anxious that the surgery will hurt. Most say that it was a fairly simple procedure and that there was some pain or discomfort afterwards. This may not be the case for everyone and experiences post-surgery will vary. Your doctor can talk to you about common side effects and typical recovery time.

“I was nervous for the port surgery but I love my port; it was so much easier every time I went to have chemo.” - cris, Breast Cancer, Stage III

“My port was inserted in an outpatient type of environment by a radiologist. After the procedure I was taken to the cancer center and received my first chemo treatment. I've had my port for over a year now and really have no problems.” - bobhess, Colorectal Cancer

“I underwent the port procedure in the morning under 'twilight' anesthesia, and I received my treatment through the port on the same day. Discomfort (versus pain) was minimal and although it took a little while to get used to it being there, I think it was well worth it and makes treatments so much easier.” - RuthAnne, Lung Cancer

“My port placement was done in a "mini operating room" of the office complex. I was given something to relax me, but I was awake. The doctor and nurses were compassionate and caring. It went well. Afterwards, I went wig shopping. I had it removed at the same facility. The male nurse sat next to me and told me to squeeze his hand and I did. Five minutes later he asked if he could have his hand back! For me, having the port for chemo was a blessing as I do not have the veins that I would have needed. I was aware of its presence and felt a sense of freedom when it was removed.” - JennyMiller, Breast Cancer, Stage IIIA

Chemo Port Cleaning and Care

A common question that WhatNexters have is whether or not their port will take daily care. Ports are not commonly high maintenance; some say there was soreness after the surgery, most patients go on to maintain their normal quality of life. You will still be able to shower; it may take some getting used to or finding a new sleeping position. Many people stay completely active with their ports. A port should be routinely flushed if it is not used for more than a month or so.

Some WhatNexters have experienced a slight itching or burning when it comes time to have their port flushed. The time between flushes is often 3-6 weeks depending on recommendation from your doctor.

“If it wasn't going to be accessed for a long time then I would have had to go to my port flushed about every month. I was very thankful for my port.” - lynn1950, Breast Cancer, Stage III

Possible Port Complications

There are possible complications with having a port. It should be monitored closely and you should report any problems to your doctor right away. A port can break, become swollen, or become infected; signs of infection are if the site is red, hot, or oozing. These problems are not meant to scare you, but are a reminder that you should be attentive to any changes and report them to your doctor.

“I had two put in, first one quit working, but it was swapped for another and I kept it for 10 years after I quit treatment! Both were done in the operating room under local anesthesia. The second one was taken out just a few years ago after me refusing to let it go. I was very attached to it, literally and figuratively. It was a very nice thing to have!” - GregP_WN, Hodgkin Disease, Stage II

Possible Port Pain

Many WhatNexters wonder if the chemo port implant will hurt. Some have complained of port pain including soreness after port surgery or some irritation when their clothes or other items such as a seatbelt rub against their port site. The area may feel tender. Some WhatNexters say that their shoulder felt heavy or that there was some bruising; not many say they have experienced a lot of pain, but everyone reacts differently from the insertion. For those that experienced port pain, they talked to their doctor and were able to regulate the pain. Some have simply experienced worry or discomfort from the change of having a port there.

“After I had my port for over a week it became a lot easier to think about. It bothered me a lot at first, but I finally started to forget about it a little. I know it would just take time for the adjustment.” - nobrand, Lymphoma

Chemo Port Removal

A port can be removed when you are finished with chemotherapy. Some WhatNexters have wanted their ports out as soon as possible, but some have kept theirs in for future use. Some have even kept their port for years and continued to do routine flushes. This is an option that should be discussed with your doctor; you will have the opportunity to discuss the technical pros and cons of keeping it or having it removed.

“I had the port out about a month after my last chemo. I was so glad to get it out. It was a sense of freedom for me, another hurdle, a positive event in my journey. The time frame would most likely depend on the doctor and individual case though.” - JennyMiller, Breast Cancer, Stage IIIA

Why You Would Want a Port

When there are multiple options of how to receive chemo, sometimes the deciding factor comes to a personal preference. Some reasons why WhatNexters wanted a port were that they wanted to save their veins from getting pricked every time they got chemo, they felt it made chemo treatments go quicker, they thought it would be worth it because they were going through chemo for an extended period of time, and that some ports can also be used to do blood work or contrast CT scans. Your personal reasons for wanting or not wanting a port may be unique to your own preferences.

Emotional Reactions of Getting a Port

WhatNexters’ initial reaction when their doctor presents the option of a port is often one of uneasiness. Everyone will react differently, but some reject the idea of another surgery or worry that a port implant may be a constant reminder of their cancer. Fortunately, in most cases the uneasiness faded over time and they were thankful for their port. Even if you find you have a love/hate relationship with your port, many survivors say they would not change their decision and that it made going through chemotherapy more bearable.

“I had a love-hate relationship with my port. I was so grateful to have it because it spared my veins, but I didn't like that it was a constant reminder even when I wasn't on chemo. Despite all the problems I had with it, I'd do it again in a heartbeat if I had to.” - IKickedIt, Colorectal Cancer

Ultimately the decision to get a port is between you and your doctor. Have you chosen to have a port implant? What do you like and dislike about it? What insights can you offer others who have not made their decision?

  • 16 Comments
    • odyjones' Avatar
      odyjones

      Diedre18 if its only 4 rounds of Chemo take in the veins if I had known how painful the port would be I may have passed on it, its going on day 3 since install and the pain in up my neck is killing me thank god I have pain pills, and I am not pain wienie!!!

      10 months ago
    • Skyscanr's Avatar
      Skyscanr

      I am so glad I have my port . Just finished round 12 of chemo and more to come don't know how my veins would have held up.

      I had no pain from the port going in or it being there.

      9 months ago
    • Deni56's Avatar
      Deni56

      I had a Port put in in May 2015 and it was used for my first two chemo treatments...all of a sudden they were no longer draw blood, unable to administer chemo...I began to swell up all around my neck - turns out I had a blood clot in my jugular vein right at the point of insertion...after some xrays they also found that my internal line had crimped up like you can do with a garden hose to stop the water....I spent some time in the hospital ICU on IV Blood Thinners...they removed the port after they got rid of the clot... I now have constant pain at the site area and all under my right arm...I have a pacemaker so that is why the right side implant...Ruined my veins - now when I go in to have my blood work done they have to use the doppler in order to find any that they can get to...

      3 months ago