What is a Portacath?
Author: Shannon Miller
Prior to starting chemotherapy you are hit with a lot of information. You’ve likely just been diagnosed with Cancer and depending on what stage and type, you may have already been through a difficult surgery. You’ve been through countless tests, doctor’s appointments and the number of times someone has stuck you with a needle is getting a bit tiresome. The process can truly wear you out, not just physically, but emotionally.
One decision that was fairly easy for me was the portacath. At first I was thinking, jeez, another surgery (although it’s an outpatient surgery it’s still another trip to the hospital), another lovely scar (which really shouldn’t bother me with the amount of scars I have from being a generally clumsy person when I’m not on the balance beam) and something else that signals chemo treatment is a go.
After discussing the portacath with my oncologist, Dr. Stephen Buckley, (see video below) and understanding the reasoning behind the portacath I was all for it. Now I am 6 weeks into my chemo and have to tell you it is absolutely a wonderful thing! I can barely feel the needle prick and no one would ever know that I have it. Well, except for me announcing it to the world. Since my port is accessed from 4 to 7 times a week this makes a huge difference for me. Whether or not you need a portacath is a good question for your personal physician and will likely depend on your personal cancer regimen.
They have different sizes of the portacath. For example mine is a bit smaller and flatter than my father-in-law’s. The scar is approximately an inch and half horizontally. You can usually choose which side you want the portacath on as well. Some things to consider: I tend to carry my son on my left hip so I asked to have the portacath placed on the right for less chance that he might bump it. In addition, the right side works out nicely when I have my seat belt on when driving. It doesn’t hurt but might be uncomfortable if you’re in the car a lot (as many mother’s are).
If you have a portacath then you know how tender your skin can get with the dressing changes. I have had great success with Aquaphor, Lindi and Lansinoh (typically used during breast feeding). You can also ask your doctor about other creams that can help.
Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor about where the portacath will be placed. Dr. Robertson from Southeast Gynecologic Oncology Associates who did the surgery to place my portacath even marked the spot with a sharpie so I wouldn’t be surprised when I woke up! I love that they understand my type A personality. This is your body and if it’s easy to move the placement down an inch so that your scar doesn’t show when you wear tank tops and other clothing, that’s okay. Cancer treatment can be a long and arduous process; you have to find a few areas that make you feel good.