Pumps that deliver cancer-fighting drugs through IV lines help ensure that you receive the proper dose at the correct rate. They’re used in home and hospital settings.
Chemotherapy is a common treatment for cancer that uses powerful drugs to attack fast-growing cancer cells in the body. The most common types of chemotherapy include oral medications or infusions given intravenously (IV).
A chemotherapy pump helps make sure the IV delivery of chemo drugs is done safely and effectively.
Chemotherapy pumps help make sure the right dose of chemo drugs are delivered through the IV lines, at the correct speed or rate.
A chemotherapy pump works by delivering a preset dose of drugs at a predetermined rate through an IV line, usually in a person’s chest or arm.
The rate at which you receive chemotherapy medications through a pump is designed to keep your veins and body safe and ensure that any side effects can be managed. The first time you receive chemo, the rate is usually slower than normal so that your body can adjust, and your treatment nurses can help you if your body has any reactions.
Chemotherapy is typically administered in a hospital, but if you need to receive the drugs over a period of a day or more, you may be able to use a portable (ambulatory) chemotherapy pump at home.
A chemotherapy pump used in a hospital is typically battery-powered and attached to a portable drip stand. The stand has wheels and a tall pole that holds the bag containing the chemotherapy drugs. This allows the person receiving the drugs to move around during the chemo session.
Before you start receiving the drugs, a nurse or other medical professional will adjust the pump to the appropriate setting for your treatment session. The dose and rate of drug delivery can vary from one session to the next.
At home, a smaller pump is used and can be carried around on a belt holster or in a bag or backpack. These pumps are known as continuous-pressure pumps and don’t require batteries. The pumps themselves contain the chemotherapy drugs, which are released slowly, sometimes over a period of up to 4 or 5 days, if necessary.
There are two main types of chemotherapy pumps: electronic and continuous pressure pumps.
Most pumps used in a hospital or other clinical setting are electronic pumps that are attached to IV drip lines. In recent years, more facilities have been using smart pump technology, which combines computer technology with electronic medication libraries to help reduce the risk of dosing and rate errors.
The smaller continuous-pressure pumps don’t rely on gravity. Instead, the pumps contain a balloon-like device filled with chemotherapy medications. The continuous contraction of the balloon pushes the drugs through the IV line, which also contains a flow restrictor to ensure the exact amount of medication is released.
You shouldn’t have to wear a chemotherapy pump for more than a couple of days per treatment session. In some cases, you may need to keep it going for another day or 2 while you’re in the hospital receiving radiation treatment.
Remember that the nature of your chemotherapy treatment is highly individualized and based on the type of cancer you have and its current stage. How you have responded to previous treatment and how your cancer is responding to ongoing chemotherapy will also determine the nature of future sessions.
Essentially any type of cancer that is treated with chemotherapy may involve the use of a chemotherapy pump. A partial list of cancers that may be treated with a chemotherapy pump, according to the
- brain cancer
- breast cancer
- colorectal cancer
- endometrial cancer
- Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- liver cancer
- lung cancer
- multiple myeloma
- ovarian cancer
- pancreatic cancer
- prostate cancer
The key is to follow the instructions for cleaning and care very closely and report any issues immediately to your doctor. You may need to come into the hospital or clinic for assistance, or a nurse may need to visit your home to address any problems with the pump.
As for the overall long-term success rate of chemotherapy pumps, it’s difficult to calculate as chemotherapy is used for a wide range of cancers and for individuals at different stages of their disease. However, the survival rates for people who undergo chemotherapy tend to be better than those who don’t receive chemo.
How do you sleep with a chemo infusion pump?
A home chemotherapy pump is small enough with a long enough IV line that you can set it on top of your covers or under your pillow while you sleep. You may also be able to set it on a nightstand. The devices are quiet and seldom require much maintenance by the user.
How long do you keep a HAI pump in?
A hepatic artery infusion (HAI) pump is used to treat liver cancer. It’s implanted under the skin near the liver, usually at the time of your liver cancer surgery. Each case is unique, but it’s possible you may need to keep using the HAI pump for 6 months to a year. The pump is refilled with chemo drugs at each follow-up appointment with your doctor.
Can you shower with a chemo pump?
There’s a chance water could damage the pump, so set the pump just outside the shower while you bathe.
A chemotherapy pump is a helpful medical device designed to reduce errors or complications associated with a powerful cancer-fighting treatment. Getting just the right dose of chemotherapy is essential for it to be effective at killing cancer cells while not being too overwhelming and causing severe side effects.
If you or a loved one are scheduled for chemotherapy and have questions about the technology and the processes involved, just ask your doctor or an oncology nurse. You don’t need more uncertainties at this already challenging time in your life.