A Survivor’s List of the Pros & Cons of Chemo Ports

The day before I started 16 cycles of chemo over 20 weeks, an interventional radiologist implanted a power port on the left side of my upper chest during an outpatient procedure. I quickly learned that this quarter-sized port was key to making chemo run smoothly because it connects a catheter to one of the main veins leading to my heart. Why was this a big deal? It meant chemo drugs could be delivered quickly and safely into the bloodstream—and I didn’t need to get pricked with new IVs at every infusion.

Wondering whether you or your loved one should get a port for chemotherapy? Here are few pros and cons based on my experiences over six months of chemo and pre-op testing.

Disclaimer: These are my tips and suggestions as a survivor, not as a clinician. Please consult your doctor when making a thought-out decision.

Some Pros of a Port:

1. It Speeds Up Chemo Infusions

      ONcology nurses are skilled at quickly inserting the special Huber needles into the port, which hook up to the IV chemo drugs.

2. No More IV Bruises

      Before I got my port, nurses struggled to find good veins on my arms, and my pale skin registered lots of bruises from failed attempts.

3. Less Pain

      About 90 minutes before my infusion appointments, I used an over-the-counter cream with lidocaine to numb my port. I liberally applied it with cotton balls and then covered it with Tegaderm transparent film (Glad Press’n Seal works, too). Nurses peeled off the film and, one pin prick later, the needle was in.

4. It Can Stay In As Long As You Need Treatment

      You can bathe, swim and perform whatever activities you are well enough for with your port.

5. It Can Be Used for Other Therapies

      My port allowed for quick blood draws, one blood transfusion and two IV fluid replenishments during my chemo. Post-chemo and pre-surgery, my port allowed me to have an MRI with contrast without another pesky IV.

Some Cons of a Port:

1. One More Procedure, One More Scar

      Once the port is removed, you will have a small scar as a reminder of where your port was inserted.

2. It Looks Awkward Poking Out of Your Skin

      My port looks like a black-and-blue quail egg bruise sticking out of my skin, but I wear clothes that easily cover it for self-confidence.

3. It Gets In the Way Of Seat Belts

      I bought a fuzzy seat-belt cover for driving so the belt didn’t rub against my port. It was an easy solution.

4. It Can Malfunction or Break

      While this is rare, I had a slight scare toward to the end of my chemo when the blood draw wasn’t working because my port seemed blocked. But my oncology nurse patiently flushed and re-flushed until the blockage was clear.

5. It Needs to Be Flushed When Not In Use

      If your port won’t be accessed for four weeks, it will need to be flushed with heparin.

Again, the decision is yours and your doctor’s whether to get a port for your treatments. For me, the convenience—and relief from more discomfort—the port provided during my treatment easily outweighed the negatives.

What advice can you share about treatments that you’ve undergone? Share them in the comments below!