- Cancer Information
- Cancer treatment
- Chemotherapy treatment explained
- Intravenous (IV) chemotherapy
Intravenous (IV) chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is most commonly given through a liquid drip into your vein (intravenously). Depending on the treatment, a single session could take from 20 minutes up to several hours. It will usually be given during day visits to your hospital or treatment centre. Sometimes chemotherapy is given via a portable pump you are able to use at home.
Ways of injecting drugs
To prepare you for IV chemotherapy, you will have a narrow tube inserted, usually in a vein in your arm. The treatment team will select the most appropriate device depending on how often you need chemotherapy, how long it will take to give each dose, and how long the device will need to stay in place.
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A small plastic tube is inserted into a vein in your arm or the back of your hand and taped securely into place. Having a cannula put in can be uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t take too long. The cannula is kept in place if you need to stay in hospital for a few days. If you have day treatment every few weeks, the cannula is usually put in and taken out each time you visit.
A type of thin plastic tube that remains in your vein throughout the course of treatment, often for several weeks or months. Blood for testing can sometimes be taken through this tube. A CVAD shouldn’t cause discomfort or pain.
Common types of CVADs include:
- central line – inserted into the chest or neck
- Hickman line – inserted into the chest
- PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line – inserted into the arm
- port-a-cath (port) – a small device inserted under the skin of the chest or arm.
This device is programmed to give a prescribed amount of chemotherapy continuously over a few days. The pump is usually attached to a central line and is quite small. It can be carried in a bag or belt holster, and can be tucked under a pillow when sleeping.
Your hospital or treatment centre will explain how to care for the pump, and they can answer any questions you may have.
|Caring for your line or port
Before you go home, a nurse will show you how to look after your line or port to prevent infection or blockage. A nurse may regularly visit you at home to help clean all tubes or lines. It’s important to keep the area dry when showering or bathing, and to contact your doctor or nurse immediately if you have pain, discomfort, redness or swelling around the line. If these are signs of an infection, you will be given medicine to help fight the infection, and the device may need to be replaced.
Dr Prunella Blinman, Medical Oncologist, Concord Cancer Centre, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, and Clinical Senior Lecturer, Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Gillian Blanchard, Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Calvary Mater Newcastle, and Conjoint Lecturer, School of Nursing and Midwifery, The University of Newcastle, NSW; Julie Bolton, Consumer; Keely Gordon-King, Psychologist, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; John Jameson, Consumer; Dr Zarnie Lwin, Medical Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and Senior Lecturer, School of Medicine, The University of Queensland, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Dr Felicia Roncolato, Medical Oncology Staff Specialist, Macarthur Cancer Therapy Centre, NSW. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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