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Starting Interferon Treatment - Opinions Please - Port or PICC?

Posts: 40
Joined: Aug 2009

Hey ya'll. I just finished up my lymph node dissection surgery, and I'm scheduled to go back to the surgeon to have the drain removed. At that appointment, we'll discuss the advantages of a port vs. a PICC for my upcoming interferon treatments. I was hoping to get some insight from y'all.

My "official" diagnosis is recurrent melanoma. It showed again up after an absence of 17 years in ONE lymph node under my right arm (no primary source this time). We don't have the pathology on the original melanoma - only that it was on my back, and it had a couple of satellite nodules, but no lymph node involvement. My surgeon then surgeon did with a VERY wide excision and declared me "cured". BTW - that ONE lymph node count is now official - the PET scan didn't show melanoma anywhere else, and the pathology report on the lymph nodes removed by the surgeon didn't show any other lymph nodes with melanoma. So post surgery, for now at least, I am offically melanoma free! YAY!!!!

The last time I talked to my oncologist he said I'll be getting the "standard" interferon treatment - 4 weeks of high-dose interferon followed by the 48 week 3x a week injections.

I want the port because I have 3 large dogs, 4 cats (and their litter box), and a parrot to take care of - I'm concerned about keeping a PICC safe, secure, and sterile. My question - is it worth getting the port over a PICC for the 4 weeks of the induction phase of interferon?

What did everyone else who has done the interferon treatment do? All comments and suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you!

Posts: 5
Joined: Jul 2009

Dobermom, I had the picc line, found it umcomfortable, and awkward at first. Had mine in apprx 6weeks. They should give you a sleeve of some sort (mine was netting) to keep it tight against your skin. They should change the dressing on it once a week. Really no big deal once you get used to it. You will have to flush it out on days you dont have treatment. They gave me sailine and hepren for that. I will keep you in my thoughts. Been there done that 4 years ago.

yalleh's picture
Posts: 36
Joined: Jul 2009

If you havent done it yet and you have the option the PORT is the way to go. I had the PICC for my Interferon and its a pain in the behind, my cancer got worse and so for the following treatments I had a PORT installed and its awesome. If you have a lot of pets to take care of,,, then it will be very hard for you to keep the PICC clean. Just IMHO .

Posts: 40
Joined: Aug 2009

Hey y'all. I thought I'd let everyone know - I opted for the port. I just finished week 3 of the 4 week high-dose interferon treatment, and I can honestly say the port was definitely the way to go.

I go in on Monday, my oncology nurse "taps" my port - that "tap" stays in until Friday, and is removed after treatment is completed for the week. Since the port is on my chest, it is out of the way. Once you get used to it you forget the thing is even there (it took me about 3 days to get over the idea, and that's only because I'm squeamish about needles).

Other opinions I heard after the fact - my oncologist (who was thrilled I chose the port - and impressed I had done the research and come to the decision without any consultation with him at all), all the oncology nurses I've spoken to, and all the nurses in the blood lab all agreed that a port is the best way to go. It makes their lives/jobs a lot easier in the long run. And hey, I'm all for making the medical folks happy - if they're happy, then they are happier to make me happy :-) (Better living through pharmaceuticals, etc.) So far, they've kept me as happy as can be expected on interferon.

(BTW - Sorry for the overly long post again. I frequently get diarrhea of the fingers when typing.)

Other pluses:
1) They can draw blood labs from it each month. I'll make sure that monthly blood draw coincides with the monthly hep-lock that needs to be applied to the port. Kill two birds with one stone (actually three, 'cause I can get by B12 shot on the same day, but that's a separate issue ;-) )

2) Because they can only draw blood from one arm, being able to use the port during the next year instead of the veins in my one good arm means that at the end of the year, I may actually still have some good veins in that arm. Without the port, there's a really good chance even my good veins would be shot by the end of a year of blood tests.

3) This is a "negative" plus in the sense that it involves negative thinking on my part. (I believe you should think positively, but think realistically as well.) Should something bad happen in the next year - meaning we find some additional mets - I'll already have the port in place. So in one sense, I'll feel like I'm already one step ahead in whatever my new treatment plan would be. (At that point, you gotta take the positives wherever you can find them.)

So, IMHO, if your insurance company will allow it/pay for it, you should really seriously consider a port. It's awesome.

PS - Ladies, if you do get a port, do yourselves a huge favor. Unfortunately, many, many surgeons like to put the port inside the bra strap - I guess they think they're hiding it for us. What it really does is make it somsewhat uncomfortable when the "tap" is in.

So, the day of surgery, take a Sharpie permanent marker, and on the side where the port will be implanted, trace the outline of your bra on your chest. Add an arrow and a little note "port -> side" or something like that (initial it). Then, when the surgeon comes to talk to you the day of surgery, show and tell s/he what you have done and why and request they put the port OUTSIDE the bra!

(Yes, I know a Sharpie is a permanenet marker - that means when they're scrubbing your chest for surgery, they can't scrub the marker away, which means they cannot ignore what you have written there!)

Zod66's picture
Posts: 28
Joined: May 2008

My choice was a little forced as to where I would do my shots. Being 6' and about 150-155lbs I didn't have a lot of cushion in my quadriceps or triceps so I broke my stomach up into four quadrants. Used my belly button as the center of the X & Y axis and kept up w/which sections were done the past three times; which did get a little difficult.
You're in your 4th week as of today; congrats. If you can make it through the big doses I think your odds of completing the year are good. Stay hydrated.
And just for anyone else reading this for information I did neither a PORT or PICC. They switched between the back of either hand each day with an IV. And yes, by about the end of the third week the veins were starting to blow. There were a couple of days they had to make three tries to get a good vein but I didn't want anything permanent or even semi-permanent in me.

Mandy T
Posts: 2
Joined: Oct 2009

Right now I am on the 11th month of the Interferon!!! So, yeeeeaa... ONE MORE MONTH TO GO! But, during that first month I also had an IV with added liquids in the back of my hands. I think it was much easier than having something put in me. So, for me it was good.

Posts: 10
Joined: Nov 2009

Consider Vit. C infusions intravenously if available in your area. Dr’s will say not to but it helps. I did that while I was on Interferon and it helped with the side effects.

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