Wellness & Fitness

Cancer talk: A chemotherapy port or needles?


During cancer treatment, one of the pains that patients have to bear with is the constant needle pricks when receiving chemotherapy or drawing or receiving blood. Sometimes the veins are so thin that nurses have to make several attempts.

But there are ways to ease the pain. Patients could opt for the implanting of a chemo port, a device that is surgically put in the chest, or a PICC line (a peripherally inserted central catheter) that is inserted in the arm.

These two are used to administer drugs directly into the blood vessels. A PICC line is cheaper than a chemo port which costs about Sh240,000.

The clear benefits

Prof Mansoor Saleh, the founding chair in the department of haematology and oncology at Aga Khan University Hospital says some patients require chemo every 72 hours, meaning being pricked many times.

A port can remain in place as long as necessary – for several months or even years so long as it is flushed every three months and does not get infected.

Those on experimental cancer drugs also have their blood drawn multiple times to monitor how the treatment affects their body.  A chemo port or PICC line, therefore, save them needless pain.

Administering chemo using either of the two is also easier because, with needles, the drugs can drip out and burn the skin.  “The port allows the direct flow of drugs into the vein without spills which irritate the skin,” says prof Saleh.

Can anyone get a chemo port or PICC line?

In the last two years, the number of patients requesting PICC lines and ports has doubled. Nowadays Kenya has more surgeons trained to insert the ports and nurses are trained to use them.

“Anyone who can tolerate a surgical procedure can get a port or a PICC line, including those with diabetes. For children, if the child is old enough not to pull out a PICC line, they can get it but a port is better because children sometimes play with dirt,” Prof Saleh says, adding that PICC lines are also easy to use by all nurses because they are like catheters.

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