Painful veins

Does anyone suffer from painful veins after chemo. Have just had my third course of FEC and the veins in my arm esp around my wrist are so sore and painful. My son ran up and grabbed my wrist yesterday and I nearly screamed as it was so painful. This pain seems to be worse than after the second lot of Fec. Is it something to worry about or just a side effect?

Hi Jools

My veins have been really bad after a few of the cycles.I have now found out that they are fine if they run a lot of saline solution through afterwards but if they rush and only run through a small amount it seems to really hurt my veins badly so now I just sit there and insist that they wash my veins out by using more solution - this is working for me and the nurses normally dont object

Hi jools,

you are certainly in good company, sore veins are the bane of my life!!! (well, that and bc!). I have had 4 cycles of Epi and 1 of CMF so far and have really sore veins at times. In fact, my left hand objected so fiercely after the first epi that all treatments ever since have had to go into my right hand/arm! I’m determined that tomorrow will be different…

Anyway, at my chemo day centre they give me a cream called ‘Hirudoid’ to help soften my veins. It is ace and really does work. You smother it on 3/4 times a day. I’ve been naughty lately though as I can not stand the smell of it at the mo so have not been putting it on when I’m supposed to. Shame on me and no doubt I’ll pay for it tomorrow when I have my next CMF! I was told that the veins around my wrist were sore as this is where they go over a bone. Not nice eh! The hardened veins is known as ‘cording’ I think and is v.v.common (unfortunately for us!),

Take care,


Cording is thought to be related to the lymph vessels in the arm where you’ve had surgerywhere as the sore veins you describe sound like phlebitis which is inflammation of the veins. I suffered this during chemo. It comes about as a result of the drugs always being delivered via the same veins in the same arm. I also suffered phlebitis after surgery a couple of years ago due to an anti sickness drug I was given. My GP advised me to take ibuprofen to reduce the inflammation. I had been using ibuprofen gel but it had no effect as it could n’t penetrate deeply enough. The good news is that it does go away over time. I had my last chemo in January this year and the phlebitis in my chemo arm has gone. I’ve had some cording in my “at risk” arm over the last couple of weeks for no apparent reason so I’m taking anti inflammatories for that at the moment.


Hi Jools

Sounds awful for you, hun. Heat can often help in this sort of situation, with a heatpad applied to the affected arm, as the veins may be ‘spasming’ and making them dilate with warmth can work. I think you need to discuss with your Onc (are you having anything like herceptin afterwards?) and perhaps they should pop a PICC line in for the duration of your next chemo, as it sounds pretty intolerable.


Interesting. I’m suffering with phlebitis at this end and the nurse at my GPs suggested ice treatment which isn’t working. I’m allergic to ibuprofen, aspirin, etc so can’t risk trying anything Voltaren related either.

Maybe I should try one of those microwavable wheat bags and warm up the area instead… I think the chemo nurses suggested heat pads during chemo but I *think* they were voltaren ones so I had to say no…


Hi Mousy

Even just a sink of warm water will do if you don’t have a heat pad. I am thinking of the electric heat pads by the way.

Is the phlebitis chemo related?


Yes. Sadly so. We think it’s a reaction to the gemcitabine. I have 2 of those chemos left to go (one tomorrow). My left arm (which was done first) is almost back to normal, but I’m having my doubts about my right arm being OK for the last one.


So they had to use the affected arm then? Sounds terrible, hun.

Yes, but I haven’t had surgery so they said it would be OK. I think the underside of that arm feels better today but it’s still stiff along the top and some pain if I try to “do a teapot” with my hand - difficult for bum wiping and washing underneath bits in the shower.


Ah I see, you are having neo-adjuvant.

Hope it resolves soon, so you can bum wipe with ease again !!! :slight_smile:

At the Royal Marsden where I am treated - if the chemo is harsh on the veins they also keep the heat pad round the arm throughout the infusion.

jools…you can use ibuprofen gel on your arm to help ease it a bit, thats what the chemo girls told me to use. They used a heat pack for the epi which helped it go through.
Try doing the same thing at home (minus the epi)…use a hot water bottle wrapped in a tea towel or something and rest it on your arm. It does hurt as the epi hammers your veins, but it wont last forever, your veins will recover, not to full extent as before but they will recover. If its any consoloation I found the cmf sooo much easier on the veins (except they kept hiding cos they knew what was coming) Chin up chick

I’ve just had the fourth of four paxlitaxol / gemcitabine chemos. The pax hasn’t been too painful, but the gem was like having an elephant in stilettos standing on my arm. The only way to tolerate it was to have the chemo nurse switch arms between drugs, so I’ve had the taxol in the left and the gem in the right each time.

Just a thought - has anyone had the drugs inserted through their leg veins instead? One lady at our unit had this done when they couldn’t get a good arm vein. Thought it might reduce wear and tear on the arms, and wondered whether to request this for the next four treatments? I’m not squeamish about needles, and it seems like a possible solution …

What do you think? Stockbeck

Eeeek… funnily enough one of my nurses mentioned that today in passing too. The doc also mentioned one of those semi-permanent cannulas on the chest somewhere. I’m a little reluctant as I have two young children who don’t know not to just launch themselves upon me. Anyone here with young children tried it?

They had a few stabs at my right arm today but were finding the veins a bit hard, so ended up going for the left (the one with the elbow lump). I used a heat pad for the gem and managed to get it in a bit faster than usual (would have been quite a bit faster if only I hadn’t managed to get a kink in the tube after going to the loo - think I wasted about 15-20 mins then)

mousy, most definitely squeamish about needles, blood, the lot but loving the elephant in stilettoes analogy…

Hi Stockbeck

Unless your veins are truly blasted they will not want to stick chemo through a leg vein, it really is a last resort hun. Sorry to hear you have been in so much pain, I think you should push for a PICC line, put in before I presume you are having 4 cycles of EC to finish off the treatment. They are put in by the nurses, and may be the solution - discuss with your Onc when you see him/her.


PS One slight tip, which may or may not help, and you may not know about. Make sure, before you go for chemo that you have plenty of fluid onboard, if you are underhydrated, then the veins won’t be as ‘plump’ if you know what I mean

Hi Jools

I had trouble with the veins in my “chem” arm to the point where I could not straighten my arm (75% straight only) and the pain was excruciating. I couldn’t do many very basic things like (sorry about this) wiping my bum!! It was the only thing I cried about from the day I found my lump. I was terrified that I would be disabled by this problem. My oncologist was absolutly useless! He more or less said that well you’re free of cancer so stop maoning. I saw an physiotherapist and she taught me simple excersises and now it’s nearly normal, I can staighten my arm without pain, but if I bend my wrist with a straightened arm its a bit stiff.
Its now 15 months since end of chemo.

My advise is to gentle excercise your wrist and arm and be patient. Your problem will resolve in time.

Don’t be disheartened.

lots of love

Hi girls

Haven’t posted for a while but noticed this thread about veins. Had my third chemo on Wednesday and my veins are really red and arm is swollen and a bit tender and have been given the same cream as Kelly. They just suggested paracetemol if it was that painful, but its not too bad.

Hope you all have a good weekend.
Take care
Diane x