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Central Venous Catheter/Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter

Chemotherapy is the use of medicine to kill cancer cells. These anticancer medicines are usually given as an intravenous (or IV) infusion where they drip into the blood stream at a steady prescribed rate. Repeated needle sticks into the veins, can cause the veins to scar or weaken—making them unusable for repeated, long-term use. An alternative is the insertion of a central venous catheter, or CVC. The CVC is surgically implanted into a large vein in the chest or neck and threaded through until it reaches the superior vena cava. The catheter is then secured to the chest. After insertion, the CVC can be used to give IV therapy, or remove blood for lab tests. CVCs usually remain in place for a long period of time and benefit patients who need long-term chemotherapy. Another type of long-term venous access is a PICC line, or a peripherally-inserted central catheter. Compared to a CVC line, a PICC line is inserted into a vein in the arm or hand. As with the CVC, the catheter is threaded along larger and larger veins until it reaches the superior vena cava. Both CVC and PICC lines allow long-term venous access without having frequent needle sticks. Some treatments can even be given at home with a CVC. Both CVC and PICC lines have a high risk for infection. Sterile techniques must be used at all times.