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New to the board - ? about port vs picc line

cbs6931's picture
Posts: 63
Joined: Mar 2010

New notes - thanks to everyone. Sarah your information was especially helpful. I had the port place on Thursday, the surgeon was fantastic, he does alot of them, had it in in 15 minutes and uses plastic surgery techniques so the scar should not be bad. I had marked both my bra strap and neckline of my favorite sun dress, so he placed it well where there won't be problems with rubbing and it will (mostly) not be seen. YEAH!!!!! Also, I wanted to mention that this is most definately the best choice for me, since I am active, have a horse and like to ride often. The Picc line would have been a pain in the patoot! Thanks to all


Hello everyone, I'm a 53 year old female diagnosed with anal cancer. I've already had surgery and am due to begin chemo in a week. The oncologist has given me a choice between a picc line and a chest port (he prefers the port). Can some of you tell me your experiences with either? I'm leaning towards the chest port, but the idea of it is bothersome, and I'm concerned about scarring (plus I'm wondering how you keep your bra from causing issues. Also, re the chest port - I've been told to plan on 8 hours at the hospital which doesn't make much sense to me. Any info you can share will be appreciated.

z's picture
Posts: 1344
Joined: May 2009


Welcome to the board, sorry you have to be here. I have a bard port just under my collar bone. It is painless, and my friend can't even see where it is. Its high enough not to cause issues with your bra. I completed treatment 6-30-09, and have not had it removed yet. When my onc, tells me I can remove it I will. I just get it flushed every 6-8 weeks.
Also, I had to be at the hospital probably about 5 hours. They have to prep you, then they put it in, then they have to xray to make sure its in the right spot, and of course give you time to recover from the twilight.


mp327's picture
Posts: 3534
Joined: Jan 2010

I got a chest port and had absolutely no problems with it at all. As for it being an 8-hour day at the hospital, mine was far less than that. Mine was put in under fluoroscope and twilight anesthesia. I had no pain during the procedure. The area was sore for a few days, with swelling and bruising, but that cleared up after a few days. My only complaints about the port are that it was uncomfortable for me to sleep on my stomach at first, and also while riding in the car, the seatbelt rubbed on it. Those were minor issues to me, however, and I was glad that I had it. I would suggest that if you receive a port, you get a prescription from your doctor for Lidocaine cream, which you apply to the port about an hour before they stick you. This stuff numbs the area great and you barely feel the stick. I had my port for about 4 1/2 months and just about the time I was used to it and the incision quit itching, it was time to have it removed! My scar is not too bad and I just look at it as my badge of courage. If your doctor prefers a port, have a discussion with him as to why and hopefully that will make your decision easier. I wish you the best of luck!

cbs6931's picture
Posts: 63
Joined: Mar 2010

Thanks to you both appreciate the information!


z810840b's picture
Posts: 212
Joined: Jan 2010

i dont know why ur doctor would reccomend a port.,that is surgery.Are you just getting chemo 2x?I had a pic line.Was an easy procedure...not painful and I am a chicken.My oncologist said port was not necessary for treatment of anal.Its easy to maintain.Had it in for about 5-6 weeks and then done.

pjjenkins's picture
Posts: 173
Joined: Mar 2009

I don't even know what a picc line is so all I can tell you is that I found the port one of the contemporary little miracles of medical treatment. I didn't have a whole day in the hospital throughout the whole ordeal. The port is what made it possible for me to receive 24-5 chemo so I could do other things with my life and family.

Granted, this little miracle comes with some disadvantages. I got mine the Tuesday before the Monday start of chemo and, which is common, it was a sore spot for a few days. I had a little scare when I first left with the chemo going because I started to bleed but someone - probably me, had forgotten to turn a valve. My daughter quickly solved the problem. It was not positioned where it gave me bra problems but it was occasionally sensitive if bumped wrong by small grandchildren... but only the kind of irritation you can quickly forget.

I had it for almost a year. The fact that it was only used for 10 days and required monthly flushes was a bit of a drag. The removal was short and basic recovery from that was quick. I DO have a scar and it itches quite often. But it is like my badge of courage. If I were a young'un I would probably get a pertinent tattoo over or around it!

Can only say that it was a key part of making treatment as bearable as possible and I hope you will find it more friend than foe.

Posts: 1
Joined: Mar 2010

Hi, sorry I'm not a cancer survivor - just happened to see your message in a google alert and thought I'd reply. I run a website for iv nurses www.iv-therapy.net and I just wanted you to be aware of why you should probably pick a port. Basically, if you're going to just have a few days or weeks of infusion a picc would be fine, but if you're looking at possible intermittent infusions for longer than that a port is the best option. The thing is when you're not getting chemotherapy you can go about your life without worrying about the port. With a picc you have to be worrying about keeping it dry, changing the dressing, flushing it, making sure it doesn't get pulled out, etc.

I will tell you also that most iv nurses say that if they get cancer they're getting a port immediately. Some things you might not know about:

1. Once you are diagnosed with cancer, you will be stuck - a lot! This wears your veins out fast

2. Ports can be used for blood draws
3. Suggestion: When the port is placed ask that it is accessed while you are still asleep if they're going to use it soon. The port will be tender for a few weeks.

4. It's not really painful to be accessed after it heals, but ask your doctor for EMLA cream to take home. If you know when you're going to be accessed, put the cream on the skin over the port about an hour before it's accessed and it will numb it so you won't even feel the needle

5. I know you don't want it to be seen, but ask the doctor to put it sort of near the center away from the thicker part of the breast. If the port is in the breast tissue, it's much more difficult to access and occasionally gets twisted. The person who accesses you will need to hold it down firmly and it's much easier if there isn't a lot of breast tissue to deal with.

6. If it's possible you're going to need two medications or fluids infusing at once ask for a dual port. A lot of people think the port will take care of it all, but a double port will take care of twice as much. If you're going to be getting intensive treatment sooner or later you'll be glad you got a dual.

Good luck with your treatment!


mp327's picture
Posts: 3534
Joined: Jan 2010


Thank you for posting the above info on ports. You have given some very good suggestions on living with a port (which is no different than living without one!). My med onc insisted on the port due to your #1 reason--veins wear out! I was so glad I had the port, especially since, like you say, you will get stuck ALOT! I had mine taken out over a year ago and whenever I go for blood work or a scan that requires constrast, I miss having it! I hope any members new to this forum who are about to get a port or picc line will read your post first. Thanks again.

Posts: 13
Joined: Nov 2010

I had a picc put in last week as per my doctor's recommendation. However, as she was cleaning the dressing, a nurse asked why I didn't get a port instead. I have 2 more chemo treatments left. However, I will have to continue to get one of the chemo drugs for 11 more treatments which means that (if I have done the math right) I will have the picc in until the end of July. What is your opinion? Should I ask my doc to put in a port instead? It sounds like it would be much more convenient...

z's picture
Posts: 1344
Joined: May 2009

Hello, and welcome sorry you have to be here. I had a port because I was told it was easier on your veins. I know of other posters who used the Picc line and were just fine. You could ask your dr which is better for your tx plan and he should tell you. Lori

Posts: 24
Joined: Feb 2009

I wasn't offered a choice. They preferred a mediport. Surgery was uneventful and only took about 1/2 hour. I was at the hospital for about 6 hours. No major issues except those previously mentioned. I had the port removed two months after completing treatment. I did develop a small hypertrophic scar which I'm told is more common for chest wounds in females due to the weight of breasts -- although I'm not huge. There are two scars though -- one from insertion and one from excising it, so they didn't cut in the same area. Disappointing, but they're small.

sephie's picture
Posts: 605
Joined: Apr 2009

hey, i am late giving my opinion but thought it might help someone else. at MD Anderson they told me to get a picc line, not a port due to brief amt. of chemo., port is surgery etc. and it would be 3 weeks before they could get me in to do port, anyway. so I listened to them instead of listening to my niece who is an RN> she said get a port . well, I HATED my picc line. it hurt all the time and got red and had to be adjusted which meant they had to pull out the stitches and reset it and restitch it. you have to flush it all the time and clean it and etc. I was alone most of the time during treatment so let the nurses at MDA do all of that. the first one was a guy and he killed me. after that I used women to help me. But there are others that had no trouble.

Posts: 300
Joined: May 2010

I was due to have a port put in but because I was experiencing fevers, they opted to do a picc line. Had one in my right arm for the first chemo treatment and in the left for the second. I experienced no issues with either line and they were removed after the 96 hours were up. So basically I had the inconvenience of a pic line and carrying around my 'bottle of 5FU) for four or five days but that was it. Yes, you do get poked a lot and had a few fluid infusions (and I had extra pokes here and there) but it did not bother me that much. Since I have nothing else to compare it with I can only give you my experience with the PICC line. Total time took about an hour or so for me - only pain I felt was the tiny prick for Novocaine before they put in the line. Mariyne

Posts: 63
Joined: Jul 2010

My surgeon suggested the port and I'm thankful he did. Other than a few days of post surgery pain, I love it. One problem I have with it is that I have to get it flushed once a month, but that's not a bad thing. Now that my onco has given me my first ALL CLEAR, he said I could keep the port in place for as long as I wanted, so long as I got if flushed monthly and I agreed. My port is on my right chest, about an inch below the collar bone, and just to the inside of where my bra strap falls. Yes, it is visible when I wear tank tops or open neck shirts, but I just call it my healing bump. I prefer the "bump" in my chest versus being stuck every time I was to get chemo. On the day of surgery for my port, I think I was there only a couple hours from start to finish, and was given a little twilight for the procedure, but I don't remember anything after the surgeon steriled the area. I suggest the port.

Posts: 108
Joined: Aug 2010

I had a PICC and was very anxious when they explained the procedure to me. But it was really nothing more than a little pressure when they inserted it. They put it in my right upper arm and other than trying to sleep with it, and trying to conceal it (which didn't work as it was tank top season) it made lab a lot easier. I said even when the cancer cleared I wanted to keep it for life, cuz I hate needles, I have very small veins and lab work is always painful for me. But they took it out after the chemo, no scars, no side effects...if it is only for a little while, I'd opt for the PICC. Melodie

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