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Portacaths are helpful for Swedish patients who regularly receive chemo, blood tests, or blood products.
They can sometimes cause discomfort, which can be alleviated with a port pillow.
Follow our easy instructions to make your own custom port pillow.
At the Cancer Education Center, we understand that chemotherapy treatment can be lengthy and time-consuming. To help pass the time, we have dedicated this article to a fun, do-it-yourself project. We will share step-by-step instructions on how to create your own port pillow to increase comfort and reduce irritation caused by portacaths.
A portacath is a medical tool put into the chest of a patient that helps access venous systems easily. They are put into the chest with a minor surgery and are used for those who regularly have chemotherapy sessions, blood tests or the delivery of blood products. Portacaths were developed for both the ease of doctors and patients.
There are many advantages to using a portacath including shortening the time searching for a vein. Generally, patients experience less pain and discomfort when a portacath is used. In many cases, it is also safer to use portacaths for long-term infusions because they deliver medication to the body more quickly. This is less harmful to the patient’s veins long term.
When treatments are over, the portacath can easily be removed with another minor surgery. However, for the time being, daily tasks such as driving can prove to be slightly uncomfortable with a portacath. This is where a port pillow comes in!
What are port pillows?
A port pillow is a small pillow that covers your portacath to protect it from the seatbelt when riding in a car. Seatbelts can irritate the site of a portacath if driving for a long period of time. Port pillows are designed to reduces irritation and relieve this discomfort.
How to make a port pillow
For long days of treatment, making port pillows is a great way to pass the time. It’s fun, easy and inexpensive. You can find all of the materials at a local crafting store or online. You can also make use of old shirts or fabrics that you have lying around the house.
1. Cotton fabric (or any desired fabric)
2. Sew-on Velcro (5⁄8-inch width)
4. Polyester fiberfill
5. Sewing kit
1. Cut two pieces of fabric into rectangles that measure 7 x 4 inches.
2. Cut one piece of Velcro that measures 3½ inches.
3. Choose one piece of fabric and leave the second for step 6.
4. Stitch the Velcro to the left end of the fabric — soft side of Velcro facing up — leaving the other end free.
5. Take the other part of the Velcro and stitch it to the opposite (right) end of the fabric — scratchy side of Velcro facing down — leaving the other end free.
6. Put the patterned sides of the fabric pieces together and sew all the way around, leaving an opening about 1½-2 inches at one end (be sure not to catch “free” ends of the Velcro pieces in the seam).
7. Turn the fabric right side out.
8. Stuff the pillow with polyester fiberfill with the desired amount and stitch the opening to finish.
Personalize your port pillow
• Put your name on it
• Use your favorite pattern or fabric
• Use sentimental fabric
• Add accessories, like buttons
If you’re having a hard time getting started, try searching on the internet to get a better idea of what port pillows look like and see step-by-step pictures of how to make one. If you would like more help, call the Cancer Education Center at206-386-3952 for further information.
If you would like to make a donation of port pillows to any of our network locations, please contact the First Hill Cancer Education Center at 206-386-3952.
This article is from the Spring/Summer 2018 issue of Life to the Fullest, the newsletter from the Swedish Cancer Institute dedicated to those with cancer, cancer survivors, and their family members and caregivers.
Find a doctor
If you have questions about portacaths, contact the Swedish Cancer Institute. We can accommodate both in-person and virtual visits.
Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options. Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory.
Join our Patient and Family Advisory Council.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.