When to Consider a Chemo Port for Lung Cancer

If you have lung cancer, your healthcare provider may recommend chemotherapy, a treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells in your body. There are different ways to administer chemo, including taking oral medications or delivering treatment through a vein. Sometimes, providers may recommend implanting a chemo port to gain easy access to your veins.

If you have a port, chemo and other medicines can be given directly through it, so you won’t need to deal with excessive needle pokes. A port can also reduce the risk of infection and skin irritation.

This article discusses when to consider a port over other chemo administration methods to treat lung cancer.

Senior Adult Man Cancer Outpatient During Chemotherapy IV Infusion

Willowpix / Getty Images

What Is a Chemo Port?

A surgeon or radiologist typically implants a chemo port, which looks like a small plastic or metal disc, under the skin of the upper chest. The port connects to a thin silicone tube called a catheter that attaches to a large vein in the body. 

The procedure to implant a port is usually performed with local anesthesia or sedation.

Once the port is in place, chemo medicines can be given directly into it, rather than through an intravenous (IV) catheter in the arm or hand.

A port creates a barrier, so needles and medicines are less likely to irritate the skin.

In addition to delivering chemo, an implanted chemo port allows your healthcare team to:

  • Give you IV fluids or other IV medications
  • Take blood samples
  • Give continuous doses of medications, sometimes for several days

Is the Port Visible?

An implanted port will create a small bump under the skin, but this can be covered with your clothing.

Differences Between Other Catheter Types

Other types of chemo catheters include:

  • Standard IV catheter: This type is sometimes just called an IV. It allows treatments to be given in a vein through a catheter (a soft, hollow tube) with a small needle. You’ll typically get a new needle with each treatment.
  • Peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC): A PICC line is usually inserted in a large vein in your upper arm. A few inches of the catheter are placed in the vein, and the remaining part is left outside the body.
  • Central line, tunneled venous catheter, or Hickman catheter: With these types, a healthcare provider places the catheter in a large vein under your collarbone or in your neck, while a portion remains outside your body at the chest or neck. 

While a standard IV catheter is typically removed and reinserted with each new treatment, a catheter placed in the upper arm or neck might remain there for weeks or months. A port, on the other hand, can stay in place for several weeks, months, or even years.

Because a port site is sterile when prepared, a patient’s risk for infection is reduced compared to an unsterile IV site. 

Using a Port

To use the port, a healthcare provider will insert a special needle through your skin at the site of the port. A special bandage is then placed over the area.

When It’s Recommended for Lung Cancer Treatment

After you receive a lung cancer diagnosis, your provider will determine which treatment options will benefit you the most. If chemotherapy and other intravenously delivered medicines are expected to be an integral part of your regimen, your provider might recommend a port for easy delivery.

Advanced-Stage Lung Cancer

People with advanced-stage lung cancer are often candidates for chemotherapy. A port might be a good option for these patients who receive frequent treatments.

Issues With Veins

Your provider may recommend a port if you have veins that are weak, difficult to locate, or small. A port can eliminate the time and discomfort associated with finding a vein for blood draws or medication delivery.

After Multiple IV Infusions

A port might be a suitable option if you need multiple or continuous infusions of chemotherapy. If you have a double port, your provider can deliver multiple medications at the same time.

Reactions to Chemo

Some people opt for a port if they experience chemo skin reactions, such as pain, redness, or swelling. A port may help reduce your chances of having these problems.


A chemo port is implanted during an outpatient procedure. You will be given a local anesthetic. Then, a surgeon will make a small incision at the base of your neck and on your chest to insert the port and catheter. Your incisions will be closed with stitches or surgical glue.

Potential Complications

Some possible complications of a port include:

  • Pain or bruising at the site of the port
  • Infections
  • Blockages or clots
  • Mechanical problems

Chemo Port Care

Because a port is placed under the skin, you won’t need to take many precautions. The skin over the port doesn’t need special attention. You can shower or bathe as you normally would, and you don’t need to cover the port when it’s not in use. 

When the port is in use, your healthcare provider will place a bandage over the needle. This bandage should be kept clean and dry. 

If the port isn’t used often, a healthcare provider will flush it every four weeks or so to prevent a blockage.


When it’s no longer needed, the port can be taken out during a simple outpatient procedure. Under local anesthesia or sedation, providers will make a small cut in the skin and gently remove the port.   


A chemo port is a device that's helpful for delivering chemotherapy medications to veins in the body. A port can offer a convenient alternative to an IV catheter that has to be inserted and removed often. Patients with a port can receive their cancer drugs without having to have a needle stick every time. Additionally, blood draws can be performed via the port, and you can receive other medicines with one device.

A Word From Verywell

If you've been diagnosed with lung cancer, you might worry about the side effects of the therapies you receive. Frequent needle sticks are often an unwelcome necessity when it comes to cancer treatment.

A chemo port can help eliminate the number of painful jabs you'll endure. Most of the medications you receive can be delivered directly through the port. Ask your healthcare provider about the pros and cons of having a chemo port.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do patients with lung cancer always need a chemo port?

    Not all patients with lung cancer need a chemo port, but if you are receiving frequent intravenous treatments, your healthcare provider may recommend one.

  • Does chemo port placement hurt?

    You may experience some discomfort around your incisions and where the catheter is threaded after your procedure. However, this pain should subside within 48 hours. You can take over-the-counter pain relievers to alleviate these symptoms. Most people don't need prescription pain drugs.

  • What activities are not recommended with a chemo port?

    You can return to most of your normal activities once your incision heals from the port placement. You can swim with a port as long as you don't have a needle in place. Contact sports, such as football or rugby, are not recommended for people with a port.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Cancer Society. Chemotherapy for non-small cell lung cancer.

  2. Moffitt Cancer Center. What is a chemo port?.

  3. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. About your implanted port.

  4. American Society of Clinical Oncology. Catheters and ports in cancer treatment.

  5. American Cancer Society. Tubes, lines, ports, and catheters used in cancer treatment.

  6. MD Anderson Cancer Center. Should you get a central line for chemotherapy?.