How does having a port affect my daily life?

Baird Cancer Treatment Port

Many conditions, such as cancer treatment, long-term IV medication or kidney dialysis, require frequent or constant access to your veins. Repeated needle sticks in the same area can be hard on you and hard on your veins. That’s why we specialize in placing vein access ports, so that doctors don’t have to stick you with a needle or restart an IV line every time you need treatment. That makes care easier — and your life easier.

Once you have a port, you may wonder how it will affect your day to day activities. We spoke with Richard Williams, RN, BSN, OCN at Baird Vascular Institute, who said to think of it as you would any medical procedure, “For the first few days, avoid any heavy lifting or strenuous activities.” Williams continued, “There are folks who like to hunt, or play tennis, or even have a job like a hairdresser where their arms move up and down frequently, for those folks we tell them they need to give the site a chance to heal, to let the skin start coming together and heal.”

Williams added, “We do ask people about their lifestyle and take that into consideration when placing the port. We can put the port on a different side if needed. All these things are discussed with the patient because we know they’re going to have this port for awhile.”

You can even travel with a port. Williams added, “If you do go through an airport scanner, it shouldn’t go off because there’s not metal in the port, but you can pull out a card that we’ll give you and show the agent what the ‘bump’ is in your scan.”

If you’d like to learn more about port and the procedure, we have a whole series of YouTube videos on the topic.

We’ll work with you and your health care team to choose the best long-term IV access option for your situation. Give us a call at (804) 828-2600 to discuss your options.

 

Why a port is a good idea

VCU Health Baird Port

From needle sticks and blood draws, from injections to IVs, everybody has had their shots. Usually, a pinch is all there is to it. But many conditions, such as cancer treatment, long-term IV medication or kidney dialysis, require frequent or constant access to your veins. Repeated needle sticks in the same area can be hard on you and hard on your veins. That’s why we specialize in placing vein access ports, so that doctors don’t have to stick you with a needle or restart an IV line every time you need treatment.

We talked to VCU Baird Institute’s Dr. Shep Morano about why someone might need a port.

“A port is a safe, reliable and low maintenance way to access a patient’s bloodstream,” said Dr. Morano. “Sometimes a port is recommended for patients who have used up all their peripheral veins, or doctors or nurses are having difficulty accessing their veins.”

Placing a semi-permanent catheter such as a “port-a-cath,” chemotherapy port or IV access port into a large vein in the upper arm or neck can make treatment easier for patients undergoing treatments that require frequent or constant vein access.

  • Chemotherapy or anti-cancer drug infusions
  • Hemodialysis
  • Long-term intravenous antibiotic treatment
  • Long-term intravenous feeding
  • Repeated drawing of blood samples

These ports can remain in place for several weeks or months and can help patients in many ways:

  • Fewer needle sticks to draw blood
  • Multiple IV lines accessible at one site
  • Lowered risk by reduced leakage, which is particularly important with chemotherapy agents that can cause tissue or muscle damage if they leak

Dr. Morano added, “The benefits of added safety, patient comfort, infection control, and ease of access make ports a great option for someone who needs long term central venous access.”

There are several types of long-term IV ports, the most well-known is the Port-a-cath. Unlike most other types of catheters, a port-a-cath is implanted completely underneath the skin. This type of port allows you to bathe and swim without the risk of infection. Port-a-caths can remain in place for months or even years.

A peripherally inserted central catheters or PICC line is inserted into one of the large veins in the arm near the elbow. PICC lines are generally used for shorter periods (one to six weeks) and are easier to remove.

These types of catheters, such as a Central line, tunneled venous catheters or Hickman catheters, are inserted into a large vein under the collarbone or in the neck and leave the body through a separate exit point, usually the upper chest. A “cuff” secures the line, providing protection from infection and holding the catheter in place as your body heals around it.

We work with you and your health care team to choose the best long-term IV access option for your situation.

 

 

Thoughtful Gift Ideas for Cancer Patients

baird-holiday-gifts

Many of us struggle when it comes time to buy a birthday, Christmas, or other gift for a loved one who is dealing with a life changing illness. We know their strength is limited, and they may not be able to enjoy many of the activities they once did. So what kinds of gifts are not only thoughtful, but practical as well?

We found a great list of ideas, and some things you might not have known, from a company called “Just Don’t Send Flowers.” Their blog lists a great deal of information specific to cancer patients and what types of gifts would be appropriate. Here’s a sampling:

Many common smells and odors that once may have been pleasant can suddenly become nauseating to the patient. Fragrance free lotions, soaps and candles are nice gift alternatives.

Cancer is hard on the skin, so it’s important to take care of the skin using natural ingredients without perfumes or chemicals.  Use all natural products, especially those that are paraben and sulfate free.

The use of an eye mask, earplugs and comfortable loungewear can help when the patient may need to sleep during the day.

There are natural anti-nausea and comforting items available without chemicals. For ages, ginger and peppermint have been used to help alleviate queasiness.  Cooling towels, pillows and ice packs also help to quell the effects of nausea.

Many patients report that the loss of hair contributes to feeling cold, especially as they sleep. Although head covering is purely a personal choice, it is nice to have a soft and breathable chemo beanie for sleep or wearing to warm up.

A more practical choice to a basket could be a nice tote bag or duffle bag to carry the patient’s clothes home from the hospital or rehab or maybe to tote all of their items to chemo treatment. Blankets, scarves, throws and neck pillows make the day in the chemo chair a little easier, too.

And if it’s a child with cancer, remember – they’re still kids.  They love what all kids love. Stuffed animals, activity books, ear buds, monogrammed backpacks. Make sure you send happy, vibrant colors as if it is their birthday. That makes everyone feel good.

Inspirational jewelry is a great choice. Something simple, elegant and beautiful can look great all the time and be a constant reminder to the patient that you are thinking of them.

The company offers a variety of gift packages for cancer patients on their website.

An Etsy seller also features a gift pack specifically for cancer patients with all natural products.

“These products have been packaged together to provide comfort to a family member or loved-one enduring the harshness of chemotherapy treatments and includes a moisturizing jar of Unscented Shea Creme, metal tin of Lip Balm, tin of Cuticle Balm and a petite bar of Unscented Castile Goat’s Milk Bath Soap.”

A Huffington Post article by a physician diagnosed with cancer outlines thoughtful ideas for cancer patients that are not only gifts, but also other ways to help a friend of loved one dealing with cancer.

Remembering what was said earlier about heightened sensitivities, Roswell Park Cancer Institute has put together a list of gifts to avoid which is not only helpful, but has some information on gifts that you may not realize trigger negative reactions.

Often the best gift you can give a friend going through cancer treatment is the gift of your support and time. Going to extra step to research and buy a great, useful gift will help bring a smile to their face.

Navigating holiday travel with cancer

shutterstock_62592733

In June, we wrote a blog post about traveling while undergoing cancer treatment. That post covered many of the logistical considerations someone with cancer may need to consider, such as proximity of your destination to a treatment center, paperwork you may need to breeze through screenings, any needed vaccinations and the importance of planning ahead.

With the busy holiday season right around the corner, many people, including those dealing with cancer treatments, are making plans to travel to spend time with family members both near and far. Take a few minutes to read through the earlier post, but also remember that the holidays bring additional considerations for those cancer patients traveling to visit friends and family.

Consider the weather. If you’re traveling to a destination with a climate that is either much warmer or much colder than you’re used to, remember to bring appropriate clothing. Various forms of cancer treatments may affect your body temperature, so plan ahead with clothing well suited to the climate you’re visiting. Plan to bring clothing you can layer, so you can add or remove as needed.

Holiday hustle and bustle. For many, the holidays are a time to catch up with family members you haven’t seen for a year – including children of all ages. Let your host know that you may need an area where you can have some downtime, to relax, rest, nap or simply take a break from the flurry of activity.

Remember holiday closures. Don’t forget that many drugstores or other medical supply stores have limited hours and closures during Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Plan ahead and make sure you have all your prescriptions or other supplies you will need to get you through your trip.

Avoid over-indulgence. All of us are guilty of a little over indulgence during the holiday season. Those undergoing cancer treatments are no different, but be certain to take extra precaution not to mix prescriptions with food or drinks that will cause adverse affects or make you feel even worse. If you’re allowed to have alcohol, be careful not to drink too much. Try to maintain a diet similar to what you’re currently following for best results.

Avoid family drama. For some families, “lively” debates are as much a part of their holiday gatherings as the turkey. For someone undergoing cancer treatment, it might be a good time to utilize that quiet space if family tensions start to run a little high. Avoiding any unnecessary stress is always a good idea, so excuse yourself from the drama until it subsides.

Enjoy the holidays with your friends and family, but remember to take care of your emotional and medical needs during that time as well.

5 things your infusion center nurse wants you to know

 

baird-infusion-center

As a cancer patient, your physician may have prescribed infusion treatment, meaning a visit to the infusion center is in your near future. We spoke with Julia Lewis, RN, BSN, OCN, an infusion center nurse, about some tips that the nursing staff wants you to know. Here is her advice.

  1. Wear loose comfortable clothing, because you’re going to be at the infusion center for awhile. Wear either a V-neck or button down shirt, or a shirt you don’t mind the neck being stretched down a bit to access to the port. Turtlenecks are a big hassle for both the patient and the staff and you’ll usually have to undress, so even on the coldest days – leave the turtlenecks at home. In addition, men may want to consider shaving the chest hair around the port site to make tape removal less painful.
  2. On the day of your infusion center visit, don’t put heavy lotion on the area over the port site, it makes the nursing staff have to scrub harder and the opsite more difficult to stick to the skin.
  3. We have some folks who still experience a lot of pain each time their port is accessed, but those are rare. When the port is first placed, just know it’s still tender and swollen, but it will get better. If you’re afraid of the pain when the port is accessed, there is a cream called Emla that can be put over the port itself on the skin. Put a little dab on the port site and cover with plastic and wait about an hour. It is a prescription only, so you’ll have to ask your physician to write a prescription, and you should know that it’s expensive, but an option if pain is an issue for you. Another more cost effective option is to ask the infusion center if they have a product called Pain-Ease spray, which is a cold spray that the nurse uses to numb the site and then place the stick. If the infusion center has this, it will save patients a lot of cost.
  4. Depending on the treatment, give yourself 2-3 hours for your visit. Bring your favorite book, or electronic device. Some infusion centers have magazines and books; some have a television at each center, but not all. Most infusion centers will offer snacks and drinks, but not cafeteria service. However, you can feel free to bring your own snacks or food– just be mindful of particularly smelly foods that can affect those suffering already from nausea.
  5. While on the topic of medical etiquette, there are a few things your nursing staff would like you to know. We don’t always get to say this to the patients who visit our center, but here are a few things to keep in mind. First, it’s OK to have your cell phone if you need to make a quick call or need to let someone know where you are, but don’t use your infusion center time to catch up with every family member or friend you have – while on speaker phone. Be quiet, discrete and considerate of others. Also strong perfumes – cancer patients are sensitive to strong smells, and sometimes the perfume affects the nurses as well. Leave the perfume and cologne behind on infusion center day.

Finally, we want you to know that we do care about you. We become attached to our patients, and I have several that are very close to my heart. We celebrate their improving health, and mourn like family when their health takes a turn for the worse. We are there for you through this journey, cheering you on each step of the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Port Care 101 – 5 things you need to remember

Many conditions, such as cancer treatment, long-term IV medication or kidney dialysis, require frequent or constant access to your veins. Repeated injections in the same area can be hard on you and hard on your veins. That’s why we specialize in placing vein access ports that make your care, and your life, easier.

There are a few things you should keep in mind if you’ve had a port procedure.

First, make sure to follow all the detailed instructions that were given to you for taking care of the catheter of port.

Secondly, take extra precautions avoid touching the tip of the catheter and always wash your hands before touching the area for bandage changes or cleaning. Also, it is ok to ask the nurse or any medical professional that is accessing your port to wash their hands in front of you and to always wear gloves.

Watch out for any sign of infections like redness or swelling or other issues such as leaks or blockages. Notify your physician immediately if you experience any of those issues.

Don’t be afraid to contact your physician if you have a question. We specialize in placing a wide variety of vein access devices and are here to address your concerns.

Finally – live your life. Having a port is supposed to make your life a little easier while undergoing treatment. With a few modifications, you can expect to resume relatively normal activities during this period of treatment.

To share or not to share? Social media and your cancer diagnosis.

VCU Baird Social Media Cancer

There is very little information in today’s world that can’t be found by a few strokes of a keyboard. Information is literally at our fingertips in an instant. Social media feeds expose us to additional sources of information and opinion that we might not otherwise seek out. Social media also allows us to instantly share information across our broad network of friends and family.

When you receive the diagnosis of cancer, it is overwhelming. Most people need time to absorb the news and consider the implications of their diagnosis on their life, their family and their friends. Once the initial shock passes, many struggle with how to, or whether they should, share their cancer diagnosis beyond those in their immediate circle.

Sharing your diagnosis is a deeply personal choice. Some people live their life as an open book, and the cancer diagnosis is simply another chapter that they share as any other bit of news. Some people are more private, preferring to keep such details of their life out of everyday conversation.

Social media brings another element into the decision. Information can spread immediately, and whether or not you choose to keep your diagnosis private, there are a few things to consider.

If you’re requesting privacy, be sure to let any friends and family know that you prefer the news stay out of the social world. Some people send prayer requests or other updates without meaning any harm, but still expose your private situation to the eyes of others, prompting questions.

If you choose to share your journey on social media, be prepared for the inevitable questions and notifications from your friends and followers. Choosing to share such information has benefits and disadvantages. Sharing your condition may help dispel rumors. You benefit from supporters and their positive messages, you may find new information about treatments and clinical trials, and form bonds with survivors and other cancer patients.

“When my mother recently was diagnosed with cancer we shared as a way to stay connected to so many people,” said Shelley Hartmann, daughter of a breast cancer survivor. “The more prayers you have, I believe, does help you get better. It did help to stay connected, as we found so many other people that had similar situations, and it was a way for my mother to talk to them and discuss different treatments, etc.,” she added.

Keep in mind, however, that sharing your diagnosis may mean personal questions from well-meaning friends and family regarding your symptoms, treatments, prognosis and other information.

Also, once you have chosen to share the information, it can’t be taken back. You may choose to stop communicating about it, but the news is still out there, and your friends and followers will, naturally, continue to be concerned about your health. Be certain of your decision.

For those who are somewhere in the middle of an open book and intensely private, some social media platforms allow you the option to share information with only a select group of contacts, which may be more comforting for some, rather than broadcast their news to their entire friend or follower group. If you don’t know how to restrict your information to certain groups, ask a social media proficient friend or family member to help you set up this option.

Navigating the frontier of personal news in the age of social media can be a big decision with many implications. When it comes to sharing a cancer diagnosis, there’s no right or wrong choice. Only you can decide if your social network will be an additional unwanted burden or provide support and comfort during your journey.