What is a chemotherapy port?

The emotional side effects of chemotherapy can be difficult for patients to deal with.

A chemotherapy port is a small piece of equipment that a doctor implants in some patients undergoing cancer treatment. It contains a tube that fits into a vein and also a port outside the vein, just under the skin, which allows the patient to receive drug injections. Typically, a person undergoing chemotherapy needs to receive regular doses of the anti-cancer drug, and if the person needs to get their treatment through injections, a chemotherapy port can reduce the discomfort caused by repeated injections.

Chemotherapy is used to treat cancer throughout the body by injecting drugs into the bloodstream.

Some anti-cancer drugs need to be given to the body through an injection, as they can damage the gastrointestinal system if ingested. Also, sometimes only a part of the drug in a tablet is absorbed. Some cancer patients may therefore benefit from injections of anticancer drugs rather than through any other delivery method.

A chemotherapy port does not contain any drugs, but acts as a gateway for the chemotherapy drug to the body.

When a doctor wants to insert a chemotherapy port into a patient, he makes a small cut in the skin of the chest or arm. General anesthesia is usually not required and the patient is awake; local anesthetic is often used so that the patient does not feel the cut. The doctor slides the part of the port tube, also known as a catheter, into a vein. Once it’s in place, he places the chemo port into the cut under the skin. After he sutures the patient’s incision back, the port remains firmly in place and can remain there for several years.

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The overall effectiveness of chemotherapy will depend on the stage and type of cancer.

The port does not contain any drugs, but acts as a gateway for the chemotherapy drug into the body. The skin covering the port and the port itself protect the vein and surrounding tissue from damage. A possible complication of port insertion is infection, however, and this results in symptoms such as fever, redness, or swelling around the incision site. Most of the time, however, a patient with a chemotherapy port does not experience complications.

Because cancer is caused by rapidly dividing cells and anticancer drugs tend to have strong and toxic effects on the body, the treatment needs to be given over a period of time with breaks for recovery time. Each time the patient with a port receives medication, the nurse applies anesthetic cream to the skin over the port and then threads a needle through the skin into the port. He or she can then administer the medication through that needle and into the vein.

Port maintenance is monthly as it requires washing to keep the tubes clean and infection-free. The patient can do this at home, or a nurse can do it. When the patient’s treatment is complete, the doctor removes the port in a relatively simple operation that usually does not require general anesthesia.

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