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.

 

Navigating holiday travel with cancer

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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.

Traveling while undergoing cancer treatment

Baird traveling with cancer

The summer travel season is upon us, and many are planning vacation time to beaches, or the mountains, or destinations beyond with family and friends. If you’re undergoing cancer treatment, it’s no different; you need time to recharge from the day-to-day stresses of life, and especially your medical condition. When undergoing cancer treatment, there are a few extra precautions and considerations for the traveler, but that shouldn’t stop you from traveling or enjoying a vacation away from home. Careful planning can ensure you have a great – yet safe – experience.

First, get the OK from your medical team before making any travel plans. You’ll want to talk about the location, how you plan to get there, and how close you’ll be to a medical facility in the event of an emergency. Depending on your condition, proximity of a treatment center may factor in on your vacation destination. It’s important to include family members or other travel companions in these conversations so they can be informed and feel comfortable about traveling with you.

Secondly, consider how you’re going to get there. Some people with cancer may not be able to travel by plane because of the changes in oxygen levels and air pressure that occur during the flight. Changes in air pressure can sometimes cause swelling in your extremities, which could be problematic for a person with cancer. Also, sitting for long periods of time can put anyone at risk for a blood clot, but it’s even more of a concern for someone with cancer. Also, if you’re receiving chemotherapy, your immune system is compromised, making traveling through airports and sitting in crowded planes a risky endeavor.

If you are well enough to travel by plane, there are a few things to keep in mind. Some forms of radiation used for radiological exams and treatment may trigger airport radiation detectors. Some chemicals used may linger in the body for up to 3 months. If you plan to fly after such an exam or treatment, ask your doctor for a letter that identifies the procedure, the type and amount of radioactive material used, the date of the procedure, and the likely duration of detectable radioactivity. Be sure to carry this letter with you when you travel.

When booking your flight – plan ahead so that you can have seats with extra legroom if you need it, or ensure that your travel companion can be seated next to you. Also, notify the airline in advance if you think you may need oxygen.

Research your destination and locate a cancer center, and emergency center far ahead of time, just in case something goes wrong. If those aren’t available, (if you’re on a cruise, for example), notify the staff where you’re staying of your condition to help facilitate their cooperation in the event of an emergency.

Check your insurance policy to see if treatment away from your normal care center is included. You may want to consider a short-term travelers policy for additional piece of mind.

Make sure you have written documentation for on your condition, treatment regimen, and medications, and keep it with you. This is also important if you have an IV port or other internal device so you have documents to show security screeners. You also might consider getting a medical alert bracelet. If you require syringes for medication or portable oxygen tanks, you may need a note or form signed by your doctor for these items to be allowed on a plane.

When planning, keep in mind that certain destinations require vaccinations prior to entry. Speak with your physician about whether or not this is something your body will tolerate with other medications you are on, or with a weakened immune system.

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, take it easy and enjoy the moment. Don’t overdo sightseeing or shopping excursions and listen to your body when it’s telling you it needs rest. Relax – and enjoy!