Has anyone had lots of problems getting the cannula inserted in the back of the hand ready for Chemo?

On my first visit for my Chemo (carboplain) the sister had five goes at inserting the cannula and boy did it hurt. In bed that night the pain in my arm was misserable right to my shoulder and this continued for 4 days. I rang the hospital and they suggested a heat pad, which i did, it helped, but i thought to myself ive got 5 more of these. On the 2nd Chemo (another sister) managed to insert cannula first time, but half way through the pain started again, 3 nurses came to check and it was flowing ok so with a heat pad i stuck the last 20mins. Now ive been again on Thursday 24th for my 3rd and as you can imagine i was very very nervous. Another sister who was very kind i explained how scared i was - she said we.ll get it in in no time - Oh no she tried and tried i was covered in plasters. After fetching yet another nurse she did manage to insert it no problems. After half an hour the bells were ringing id become disconnected apparently, being a novis i hadn,t realized so that put my treatment back. Anyway ive got that over with till the next one thankgoodness. Waiting now for CT Scan to see how treatment is going, Has anyone else had this trouble with cannula inserting and arm pain alot. Margaret

45 Replies

  • Hi Margaret,

    Yes it is quite common to have trouble, I think your veins go into retreat, wrap something warm around your hand before you go or perhaps on the way to the hospital, like one of those hand warmers you can get from Aldi's (they cost a couple of pounds) or maybe a hot water bottle it does help to warm your hand up failing that you could ask the hospital for a heat pad. Best wishes love x G x

  • Thanks for info will try this. regards \Margaret x

  • Hi Margaret,

    I had trouble with cannulas too, like yourself it took 5 attempts to get one in on my last chemo. They went in, but were very painful, or hit a valve so wouldn't work! I occasionally found them painful, but this was usually when I had to wait at the end of one bag for the next to be set up.

    I'm told there are different sizes of cannula needle, so you could ask about that, as I understand some people get on better with smaller ones.i also found having a heat pad helped the stuff go in with less pain, so I would definitely recommend those.

    Good luck with your next session, you're over half way here!



  • Yes half way phew! i asked to see the cannula and its the smallest one they have. i get very screwed up so of course that also doesn,t help. i am going to ask my oncologist if i can have some dizapan the night before next chemo to see if i can relax a bit more. might help. regards Margaret x

  • Dear Margaret, I'm really sorry to hear about the problems you've had with the cannula. I wonder if you're a suitable candidate for a port which is inserted under the skin -I think in the chest. This would enable the staff to connect straight away. The down side is that you do have to maintain it - I think flush it out. Anyway it's worth asking. I think it's called a Porto-cath.

    Well done for getting through the first three - now when you have the next session you'll be over half-way there. I really hope you have good news from your CT scan as well. I didn't have one half-way through. They waited until 6 weeks after the chemotherapy had finished. Each patient seems to have a different regime.

    Good luck. Let us know how it's going.

    Loads of love xxx Annie

  • Thanks very much for your advice, i can,t have anything other than insertion of cannula into the hand i have already asked. Im going to ask for the same nurse who did it succsessfully and just hope shes on duty. Like you said only 3 more phew! No App. yet for CT Scan but will be in next couple of weeks will let you know result fingers crossed. love Margaret xx

  • Hello Whippit, I quite new to this site i am finding it very useful and interesting. I am writing this to say i rang the hospital to ask why i hadn,t heard when the CT scan was to be i spoke to the Oncologist secretary, she said there wasnt anything written down and she would organize this immediately. Anyway she rang me back the next day to say the Oncologist said to her it wasnt necessary. Im wondering if you think like me that that could be decent news? I see the doctor on Thursday this next week the day before my next chemo 4th one. The report i received in the beginning said i was to have 6 sessions of carboplatin and a CT Scan after the 3rd session if any residual cancer was visible. regards to you Margaret x

  • Dear Margaret

    The site is excellent - a great place for getting information, networking, having a laugh, having a cry, making friends.

    As I mentioned I didn't have a CT scan half-way through. I can't really imagine why anyone has one because the standard treatment is 6 sessions of chemotherapy - or 18 weekly sessions of Taxol - and I've never heard of anyone having a scan mid-term and then them stopping the chemotherapy treatment because the tumours are diminishing.

    My oncologist used the CA125 blood test to assess how effective the chemotherapy was. It dropped dramatically and then continued in a downward direction until it was just 7 at the end of the treatment. I would have thought it's good not to have a CT scan as it exposes you to so much radiation. In this case less is best!

    I really hope the remainder of your chemotherapy goes well. It looks as though you're having Carbo-Platin only. That's what I had and there were no dramatic side-effects - I just got a bit tired and breathless going up hills towards the end of the course of treatment.

    How are you feeling generally? Hope all is well.

    xxxx love Annie

  • Thanks Annie, interesting that it wasn.t suggested that you would have a CT Scan in the middle of treatment. My dr. definately said she needed me to have one but like you have said maybe better without too much radiation. I will see her on Thursday and will have more info on this query. I have only seen her at the beginning before 1st chemo and after that she has been on her hols.

    I am reasonably well thankyou for asking, i get very very tired after treatment then start to pick up around 14th day. The only thing that has happened this week i needed to go to out of hour surgery for check on my mouth which was full of ulcers and big one on side of my tongue, with temp. 37.4. i was perscribed with cordosal & difflam mouth washes which have done the trick.

    My next screw up is 4th chemo and getting the flippin cannula in 1sr

    t time I HOPE on Thursday. I am using all the suggestions the ladies on here have suggested. Hand warmers in gloves, drink plenty, and i will try and relax lol! love to you Margaret xxx

  • Hi Annie, i have seen my Oncologist this morning and the reason she decided not to do the mid CT scan is because there had been no visible cancer on the baseline scan in the pelvic floor. The C125 at the start was 1100 and it has dropped dramatically to 197 so we are thrilled to hear this, she decided it wouldnt be necessary. I am sat at mo writing this in a strange onezie my daughter bought me for my birthday to keep me warm during chemo and bad weather, hope nobody calls today! lol! still im very toastie. 4th chemo tomorrow. love to you Margaret xx

  • Good luck with the cannula tomorrow Margaret. Perhaps you should turn up in your onezie which keeps you nice and warm, and presumably those veins will want to stay on the surface to make it easier for the nurses.

    I'll be thinking of you and hope it goes well.

    Love Annie xxx

  • Thankyou very much love Marg xx

  • i have written a blog not sure what to do to thank everyone who made loads of suggestions on this problem but wanted to reply to you personally. I was called by phone on the morning of my 4th chemo at 9am to say the nurse had filled my blood bank form in wrong and i needed to get to hospital urgently to have it done again so they could mix it in time. Now i was doing my best to relax so could do without this. Id took dizapan and 2 pints of water took diet coke and drank it on the way, heat pads inside gloves, also the nurse who i knew was the best to insert cannula. I had an awful long wait of course my app. was 1.30 but it was 3.30pm but i got it done and the best ever. So thanks for all the support on here i wouldn,t have known all this without your knowledge.I have had a covering letter today to say my C125 was 1148 and now 199 so hoping the next 3 will get it lower. lots of love Margaret xxx

  • Dear Margaret, thanks for posting up to say how you got on. I was wondering how it all went.

    It sounds amazing your CA is down from 1148 to 199 - brilliant! Let's hope it continues to plummet and your veins cease to play up in future!

    Loads of love, xxx Annie

  • Hi Margaret, the nurses had difficulty inserting my cannula during the later sessions of chemo. A number of different nurses tried multiple times, so I was sore all over and my arms still ached the next day. Eventually on all occasions, the cannula was successfully inserted by a more senior/experienced nurse. Personally I find the cannula inserted in the arm less painful than the hand. I actually tell the nurse that I prefer the cannula in the arm when they start looking at my hands! One of the nurses told me to make sure I had lots to drink next time I came in for chemo, but I don't really know if this would actually make the cannula insertion any easier. It didn't for me.

    Excellent news by Annie who suggested a port if the problem with the cannula is persistent, or ask for the same nurse each time to insert the cannula who was successful the previous time. It really is no fun being a human pin cushion!

    All the best ....and good luck with the CT scan xx

  • Same nurse hoping shes on duty shes called Linda i did check on that. I cannot have the cannula anywhere else i have asked. Will let you know result after CT Scan about 2 weeks no app. yet. love Margaret x

  • Hi Margaret, why can't you have the cannula anywhere else? What reason did the nurse give you? Very strange. Please do check with your doctor next time for an alternative if the cannula difficulties continue. There are other options. Take care. Sue xx

  • Hi blue, it was the Oncologist i asked on my last visit, she said it needed to be my hand, must admit i didn,t ask why. Will maybe ask again, thanks. Marg xx

  • Hi Margaret when I first went to the hospital they suggested a PICCline for me as they had trouble getting a vein easily, it was tricky for my first chemo so they arranged for a PICCto be inserted before my next session. It sits on the inside of my upper arm andbasicallyis a peripherally inserted line the end of which sits in a deep vessel so each chemo they just flush and hook me up, they take bloods from it so I have no jabs at all. It needs to be flushed once a week and they can train anyone to do it if you have a willing volunteer and it is not tricky you just have to be aseptic. It doesn't interfere with anything and I have bought a neoprene and plastic cover so that I can shower without worry.

    They can stay in long term if needed and although a bit uncomfortable going in it has been well worth it.

    Hope things get better for you - the alternative is a portacath and it depends on your trust as to which is favoured.

    Hugs Amanda

  • Thanks for your concern, i cannot have cannula inserted anywhere else ive already asked. love Margaret x

  • hi Margaret

    I had the same problem and it became more stressful than having the chemo. I opted for a Hickman line inserted in the chest didnt hurt and was very successful. I had weekly chemo so it was flushed at the hospital each week when I had my bloods taken and then after the chemo. Otherwise I could have gone to the district nurse.It was the best decision I made.I have had it out and if I have to have chemo again I shall do it again.I have just has a scan and thinking I had given my veins a rest guess what 4 strikes and she couldnt get the needle in my arm.they are allowed only 4. I still had my scan without the fluid. the thought of going home was a worry. So I know there will be troubles ahead (as the song goes)

    Regards Barbara

  • Thanks for your reply, sadly i have to put up with the hand situation because i have discussed it with my oncologist and she said i cant have it inserted anywhere else. I do agree with you the cannula is more stressful than the juice. I did eventually get a nurse who did it first go so will try and hunt out for her hoping shes on duty on my next trip. regards Margaret x

  • Hi Margaret,

    Just ask them if you can have a PICC line or Hickman line inserted. I have had two of each it's so much easier for you and the nurses. They both have to be flushed once a week and the blood an also be taken from them. I had a community nurse come to the house to do mine.

    love Marilyn

  • Thanks for your reply i can,t have this i have already asked. Thanks for your concern. love Margaret x

  • Hi Margaret, if you don't want a line inserted here are some things you can do to make inserting the cannula easier:

    Have plenty to drink before you go to the hospital, it hydrates the veins

    Wear gloves and keep a hot water bottle over your hands while on your way to the hospital

    Ask the nurse to give you a heat pad to wear over your hands for about 15 mins BEFORE they try to cannulate, then keep it on once the cannula is in.

    I hope this helps!


  • Thanks for taking time to reply, i cannot have cannula anywhere else ive asked about this regards Margaret x

  • Just to clarify, is it that you've asked whether they can insert the cannula in a vein somewhere else, or have you been told that for some reason you can't have a port or a line? I've never heard of that happening. Poor you, it is miserable when they are all jabbing away without succes- happened to me many times.

    Monique x

  • I did ask the Oncologist if i could have the cannula inserted into my arm, she said i couldn,t, i did not ask why. I haven,t heard of ports and lines the sound of that really screws my stomach, Ive rang the hospital ward and found the sister that had sucsess with my hand and shes agreed to do it on 14th Feb, my 4th Chemo, so heres hoping. thanks for your concern. love Margaret xxxx

  • Good luck for the 14th, Margaret. I know what you mean about ports/lines - I was horrified by the thought of them. I ended up needing to have one (for other reasons as well) and it was really not too bad - more of a nuisance than anything else - and I didn't even have to have a needle put in to have blood drawn after that!

    Anyway, don't forget to drink lots and lots and hopefully that will help. Let us know how you get on!

    Monique x

  • Hi Margaret

    I had the same trouble as you, I was told to drink plenty of water. On one visit I sat with my hand in a bucket of warm water to get the blood flowing (I have Raynauds so circulation is poor). Having said that, I did notice that some nurses seemed to be able to do it more easily than others. If you find this, try to ask for them by name.

    Sending you my best wishes

    Love Mary xx

  • Hi citrine

    You are soo right. I have found the nurse who did get it in first time she is called Linda, so have checked and she will be in on the 14th Feb my next chemo, she has agreed to help me. yippee!lots of love Marg xx

  • Oh dear, i have been there too its such a common issue. I had one horrendous session of 12 attempts before success. Found it better when I took some pain killers before each session.

    Managed to get to end without a line in but really regretted not having taken the advice to have one. Also puzzled why you can't have a Hickman or PICC port in... Do quiz them again, to be sure you ave understood right. Good luck with it all anyway, understand how hard this is... Let us know what happens?


    Sue xxx

  • Hello PRchick Thanks for answering me.I have not heard of Hickman or PICC port. actually this frightens me even more. I did ask the Oncologist why i couldnt have it into my arm, she said i couldnt, i didn,t pursue it. I do think alot of my problem is because i am so frightened and everything shuts down. I have found a nurse who did manage it first time and she is on duty on my next chemo 14thy Feb. shes agreed to do it so am hoping it will be easier, will let you know. thanks for your concern.

  • Hello Margaret.

    i hope your ok. I was the same when i had my chemo. its was always 5 or 6 attempts to get the cannula in I was in tears some times because it was so painful. Unfortunately there isnt a solution we just have to be brave yet again. I always felt sorry for my partner looking on and seeing my obvious pain and he couldnt do anything. One time he even told them "look your hurting her just stop". But we have to have the treatment so theres no other choice. I hope your next one is not as trying for you.

    Take care and lots of love and luck

    suzanne. xxx

  • Hi there... I had some problems with the cannula on my third round. Three nursers tried a few times with no success. However, things were better on my next few sessions. I have no idea why I had problems when I did other than I think I was dehydrated at the time. I'm not sure if this was a factor or not. xx

  • I think you might be right, because on the first chemo the nurse kept fetching me glasses of water while she was trying to get the thing in. I get bothered about wanting to go to the loo in the middle of it, i see others going but i feel i dare not move - might put nappie only JOKING lol!At the moment im trying to not think too hard about next one on 14th just do what you say and like other ladies have said i am going to put hot water bottle on hand on way to hospital. regard Margaret xxx

  • Hi Margaret

    Have you asked about Emla anaesthetic cream. I use it sometimes if they are having to make lots of attempts with the canula. They have to put it on a little while before, and then I sit with my hands under heat pads. A pediatric anaesthetist told me about it, and it really helps numb the pain. Also I drink loads of water and have a brisk walk before treatment.

    Good luck

  • What a brill idea, thankyou, i will ask about cream. love Marg x

  • Hi

    I have not had the problem but was one of my fears when I started. I always drink plenty of water before I go. I went to have blood taken other day and forgot to drink water and had trouble getting blood. At my hospital they have you soak your hands in hot water for about ten mins befor they put needle in. I suppose this is similar to heat pad.

    Hope it goes better for you next time

  • Thanks for your reply Wiganw, my next chemo is 14th Valentine day ooh! dreading the cannula, had lots of replys about this situation i find myself in, i have kept lots of the replys in mind. Found heat pads to put inside gloves on way to hospital one lady told me about. Shall drink more. Ive also rang and found what the nurses name who had sucsess getting the flippin thing in last time, Linda, and she will be there and has agreed to do it. thanks for your concern. love Marg x

  • Hello Margaret

    This process can seem very barbaric at times, between having cannulas inserted every three weeks, plus for the CT scans. during my first cycle, I usually ended looking as though I was a self abuser with huge bruises on the back of both hands and wrists sometimes, I bought a big blingy bracelet to hide them. The worst was my 6th of first cycle when the back of my hand turned red almost at the end and the powers that be decided that the chemo had leaked in to the back of my hand. This necessitated a hurried call for a doctor who proceeded to inject (about 60 different holes) a saline solution into the back of my hand and squeeze it out through the holes to rinse it out. Luckily my daughter was with me and we turned it into a sort of joke about puffer fish (which is what the back of my hand looked like for a time) Didnt get out that night till almost 10pm. Needless to say the skin on this hand has never returned to its "youthful" appearance despite using copious amounts of hand creams. I was later told that it probably wasnt a leak but the start of my allergy to Carboplatin. Oh the joys.

    Second cycle went OK and three weeks ago it was no bother, I wear gloves on my way to hospital and they put a heat pad on as well which seems to do the trick. I also drink plenty water before and during the process, I dont know if it helps or not.

    I do panic a bit beforehand wondering what is going to happen this time.

    Good luck.


  • Hi Joanna, that all sounded awful for you, must admit it wasn,t quite as bad for me, i felt bad enough though.Everyone on here have given me lots of different ideas which i am all prepared for heat pads in gloves on the way to hospital gloves plenty to drink, i have chosen the nurse who i would like to get cannula in (senior). My 4th chemo is tomorrow 1.30pm ooh! will let you know. thanks. love Marg xxx

  • Hi Margaret!

    It does seem to be a problem. My veins packed up after my first debulking and on a couple of occasions even the anaesthtists failed to get the cannula in. It will be worse next time as, since the lumpectmy and removal of lymph nodes I cannot have any medical procedures on my left arm and that has better veins. I drink about 2litres of water a day so that is not the problem.

    I became a dab hand at unplugging my drip to go to the loo but I am extra careful since my drip line caught on the alarm button as I turned to come out and found almost every nurse on the ward outside! I had not heard the alarm as it was not audible in the loo!

    Some nurses are clumsy and there was one nurse I used to pray I had mot been assigned to. In Leeds one is assigned a nurse for your chemo and they monitor you throughout. Useful when I went into anaphylactic shock!

    I found that relaxation exercises helped most and distracting myself with my iPod and iPad plus the cryptic crossword helped to pass the time.

    Good luck! Just remember that all the unpleasant side effects now pay off in remission afterwards. Learn to adjust your lifestyle to accommodate the exhaustion and it will all be worth it!

    Best wishes

    Margaret (another one! LOL!)

  • Thanks for your message Margaret, i did have a better time this 4th chemo fortunately,Took all the messages i got from the ladies on here and pleased to say it worked.Heat hand pads, lots of water, dizapan at night and morning, and able to have a senior nurse administer cannula. I actually ate and ate myself through procedure. Dr. Onc has since written to my doctor to say my C125 has gone down from 1148 to 199 after 3 sessions so am chuffed with that and hope it continues. Im on carboplatin 6 sessions 2 more to go. love Marg xxxx

  • I had carboplatin first time round with paclitaxol! I became allergic to carboplatin and had cisplatin but that did not work! Luckily that tumour was operable so am in remission at the moment. Before inserting the canula they usually soak my hands in hot water but a handwarmer would be better I think! My daughter gave me one for Xmas so I shall have it ready next time!

    Glad your experience was better this time! I ran through nurses, technicians, doctors and anaesthetists right upto registrar level on one occasion before they decided I could finish the antibiotics orally! It is now a standing joke as th who can succeed in finding a vein and not leave me black and blue!

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