How a Port Can Make Cancer Treatments Easier

For more than five years, Sally Boyd had repeated needle punctures in her arm for blood draws, chemotherapy, and other procedures for multiple myeloma.

“The nurses said I had good veins, so at first it was easy for them to insert the needle,” Boyd recalls. “But as time went on, my arms were bruised and sore.”

Dana-Farber has led the way in introducing new therapies that have transformed this type of blood cancer from a fatal disease to a chronic illness. However, living with multiple myeloma or other types of cancer often calls for procedures involving needles.

Nurse Kate Murphy with Sally Boyd.
Nurse Kate Murphy with Sally Boyd.

Today, Boyd has her blood drawn and receives chemotherapy and other products through a type of central line called port-a-cath, a small device installed beneath the skin, usually on the upper chest. Some patients get chemotherapy or hydration at home through a port, and their nurses teach them how to disconnect it.

When Boyd’s close friend was diagnosed with cancer, she had a port installed right away. “My care team had mentioned the port to me, but once my friend showed me hers and told me about the advantages, I decided to get one,” says Boyd.

She is glad she did, as the port has several advantages:

  • You don’t have to endure repeated needle sticks in a vein. When the needle is inserted in the port, you feel less discomfort.
  • Your arms are free while you are receiving chemotherapy or other treatments such as hydration or platelet infusions.
  • The port, unlike other types of catheters, is under the skin, allowing you to dress normally, take showers, and swim.
  • The port allows some patients to receive chemotherapy or hydration at home.

Ports are not for everyone. Talk to your doctor or nurse to see if a port or another type of central line is right for you.

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