Almost every mesothelioma patient needs to decide on whether or not to get a port implant to help make their mesothelioma treatment procedures easier.
During your mesothelioma treatment, your health care team frequently needs access to your veins to give you treatments such as chemotherapy, blood transfusions, antibiotics, or intravenous (IV) fluids. They may also need to take samples of your blood for testing. Getting a port implanted takes away the guesswork about where to stick the needle.
Mesothelioma caregiver Debbie Clemmons describes in her book about her late husband Randy Brady’s treatment, how he was like “a pincushion” before he decided to get a port implanted.
“Last Monday we were successful in getting a port into Randy. It looks like a doorbell under his skin. The line goes right into a major artery,” she writes. “On Tuesday, we had the first chemo treatment and it went smooth. The port really made a big difference!”
Is a port right for you? Here are a few questions and answers to help you decide.
What is a port? It’s a surgically implanted disc just under the skin creating an opening about 2.5–4cm (1–1.5in) in diameter.
Where does the port go? A port usually is inserted into the upper chest just below the collarbone or upper arm. Talk to your doctor about your activities and clothing preferences to find the best spot for you.
How is the port inserted? A port is surgically inserted (tunneled) under the skin of the chest, or sometimes the upper arm, by a surgeon or radiologist. You will receive either local anesthesia or be sedated.
Is the port visible? A port sits entirely underneath the skin. You may be able to see and/or feel a small bump in your chest or arm, but you won’t see the tip of the catheter outside the body.
How does the port work? Before each “access” or needle insertion, the skin over the port is cleansed and may be numbed using a cream. A special needle is inserted through the skin into the rubber seal. This allows blood to be drawn or treatment to be given into the catheter that is connected to the port.
Is there a risk of infection? Because ports are completely under the skin, there is low risk of infection. But extra care will be needed immediately after it is inserted until the incision heals.
Who pays for the port? Ports are usually covered by Medicare and Medicaid but private health insurance policies vary. Be sure to check with your insurance company prior to getting a port.
More information at Cancer.net and Veins For Life.