What is a Port?
For Los Angeles, CA patients who require chemotherapy, treatment is often much easier if they first undergo a procedure that seamlessly allows for IV medicine and blood sampling to be performed through a conduit into the bloodstream. A port is a soft, flexible tubing that is threaded into the bloodstream and is attached to a device that can be accessed from a needle through the skin. This eliminates the repeated need for finding a vein for IV access or blood lab draws.
Benefits of a Port
A port can be placed at the beginning of treatment and left in throughout the process. The tubing and port sites where the needle is inserted are all situated beneath the skin, and there are no special care instructions or limits to activity for a patient with a port. Patients can live their lives quite easily. They can shower, swim, and come and go about their daily routine, knowing that when it’s time for their life-saving medicine, they will have an easier time with dedicated and reliable access to their bloodstream.
Candidates for a Port
Ports are beneficial for patients planning on receiving chemotherapy medicines that can cause irritation or scarring to veins, particularly small veins near the periphery of the arms. Patients with difficult IV access, those who struggle with giving blood or having an IV placed will significantly benefit from a port.
Traditional Port Placement
Many Beverly Hills, CA medical centers perform port placement with local anesthetic and slight IV sedation and commonly place the port site near the collarbone. This is a typical procedure done because doctors find this placement to be the simplest and most direct way to have easy access to the center of the chest. While this certainly is a quick and easy approach, it often leaves the patient with a visible bulge where the IV access is found as well as an unsightly scar in a place on the body that many women would like to show off –their beautiful décolleté.
Port Placement at Our Medical Center
One of the approaches we take great pride in at Bedford Breast Center is placing a port through a site in the underarm so that the port itself is easily accessible in the collarbone area. Unlike traditional placement, the port is not visible, and there is NO visible scar once treatments are completed. The port can be easily removed through the incision through which it was placed, in the underarm area where it is not easily seen.
At our medical center, we are committed to ensuring that our patients complete their breast cancer treatment experience with as few permanent reminders as possible. We want our patients to have great success in eradicating their cancerous disease and when treatments are over, they should look and feel like the best version of themselves.
The Port Placement Procedure
Port placement is a short procedure that takes 1-2 hours to complete. The area where the implanted port will be placed (underarm) will be cleaned and numbed with local anesthetics. A surgeon makes a tiny incision (approximately 1-2mm) close to the armpit and a larger incision (around 2cm) in the inner part of the upper arm close to the biceps muscle. The catheter will be inserted through the larger incision, tunneled under your skin to the first incision, and finally, threaded into one of the large veins near your neck and ends near the top of the heart. The surgeon will close the incisions with either sutures, which will be absorbed by the body, or with surgical glue called Dermabond®.
Recovery after Port Placement
You may experience some discomfort around your incision sites and where the catheter was threaded under your skin. This should resolve within 24-48 hours. You may take over-the-counter pain medications until the discomfort subsides.
You must avoid wearing tight bras or carrying bags across your chest for the rest of the day. Doctors recommend that you relax at home. You can eat and drink normally, but expect to be a bit sore and tired. The dressing is removed a few days later, and then you can shower or bathe. The stitches will dissolve over time.
Be sure to monitor any signs of infection and inform your doctor immediately if you notice any pain, swelling, fluid around the incisions, redness, chest pain, shortness of breath, swelling on the arms, dizziness, or fever.
Caring for Your Port
A nurse or any healthcare worker should flush out your port every four weeks. This is done to prevent the catheter from becoming blocked. When it becomes blocked with blood or medicine, the port may not function properly anymore and may have to be removed. Generally, ports do not require a lot of care. Your nurse should be able to guide you through any maintenance requirements, such as cleaning the area and preventing infection.
Learn About Your Port Placement Options
Bedford Breast Center was created to provide state-of-the-art, individually tailored patient care in a warm, supportive environment. Our staff guides patients through their treatment options, always offering dedicated support from the moment the patient comes in for a diagnosis, to the day when that patient is healthy and cancer-free.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact Bedford Breast Center servicing Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and the greater Los Angeles, CA area.