Vein Care

Hi All,


As I’m having FEC x 6 without a PICC line, veins are becoming an obsession of mine so I thought I’d pass on some useful tips for attempting to keep your veins in good condition while you’re having chemo.  These drugs are not kind to veins and those of you on FEC in particular will find it worthwhile doing everything you can to preserve your them if you haven’t been given a PICC line or some other permanent access for the duration of your chemo.  We need to try and avoid using our lymph node removal arm if at all possible because of the lymphodema risk so that only gives us one arm to work with.


The veins become painful due to two things: inflammation and cording (become tight like cords).  Inflammation is acute while the cording is chronic.  


Prior to attending the chemo unit for your chemo, plump your veins up by :

  • drinking 2 litres minimum the day before and if possible on the actual day before arriving at the unit
  • consider drinking miso soup the night before and on the day of treatment.  The saltiness of this helps to lock in the fluid, apparently.  Not tried this myself as my local supermarket doesn’t sell it!
  • warm your arm up using a heat pad or hot water bottle
  • wrap your arm in gloves, leg warmers for trip to hospital
  • While at hospital, use heat pad, hot water, all means necessary prior to cannualtion - units seem to be very good at doing this automatically

Between trips for chemo do the following to help veins stay in good shape:

  • use a hot water bottle/heat pad once a day - wrap around arm for about 30 mins
  • if possible, use moist heat (damp hot towels wrapped in cling film) as this is apparently better absorbed
  • Continue drinking as much as possible - 2 litres minimum in days following chemo to help flush drugs out of system.  But keeping well hydrated will help keep vein damage at bay.
  • squeeze a small ball (stress ball ideal but ball of socks just as good) several times a day - helps with pumping blood through veins, veins are muscle, helps to build muscle up.

If/when veins begins to become painful or inflammed:

  • hirudoid cream is available over the counter and on prescription - used specifically for inflammation of the veins
  • if hirudoid cream not available try ibuprofen/diclofenac cream
  • ask a doctor about whether a steroid cream would be beneficial
  • continue with heat & ball squeezing

Cording :

  • massage - as often as practical.  The creams listed above can be massaged in but will have a limit to number of applications so also massage with oil.
  • stretch affected area as much as possible
  • continue with all of the above.

As with any issues, always discuss it as soon as possible with your chemo team.  This information is based on my rummaging around the internet, discussing it with my chemo team and discussion on forum.  It is based on my understanding and I am more than happy to be corrected if I have got things wrong.  If anyone can add anything else which would help, then please do.


Hope that’s useful, 

B x



A heat pad may be of great help - on a day to day basis at home. For those of you, who already have ‘burnt’ veins - it will be great to help with the healing process, too.


Heat pads cost roughly between £22 - £40 depending on what you wish to have. Amazon is a great place to google for them.


This is mine - and it is fabulous…


                                   pad 2.JPG 

                                   pad 1.JPG



Sue xxx




as I am on FEC x 6, too …

Not all of us will have challenges with veins on the chemo arm - but many will. So here is, sorry,  a long bit about what can happen and how to deal with it. Remember - your veins have to be there for you after chemo, too!

So here I go - The E in FEC is called Epirubicin and this can affect our veins. It can cause inflammation of the vein - superficial thrombophlebitis. 


Although my vein was sore - it was not inflamed initially - this is something that happened after taking blood pre my 4th chemo. the ‘injury’ to the vein caused the inflammation. Swollen lower arm and wrist, sometimes red and hot to the touch. Sore to touch and not able to stretch my arm properly any more. It will heal, but it will take time. My 5th FEC will not be able to be given via cannulation in the lower arm, so the chemo team will have an interesting challenge cannulating in the crook of my elbow. 

If you can - have a PICC line, or other type of port, installed from the outset. It may not be pleasant, but it will save you many possible challenges.

Even if you do not have one - try and get it installed before chemo 3, especially if you are on FEC throughout your active treatment.

So, what to do - if you do not have a ‘port’?

Excercise your chemo arm - stretching, rotation. Get a stress ball or make one from a pair of socks (thanks for the tip Belle) and do about 20 squezes 3 x a day.

Keep your chemo arm warm at all times. Drink plenty of fluids every day.

If your vein is sore - firstly inform your chemo team and oncologist. They are likely to advise following:

Apply moist heat. A hot water bottle wrapped in a damp tea towel - apply for at least 30 minutes per day.

Elevate your arm as much as it is possible.

If it gets really bad get some Hirudoid cream (over counter or prescribed) or heparin gel.

Ibubrofen gel can also relieve the pain and inflammation - but do not mix with Ibubrufen tablets at the same time.

If you are not using ibubrufen gel - painkillers such as paracetomol and ibubrufen may give you some relief.

If it is really bad and affects your upper arm, too - also put the arm into a sling for it to rest with the hand facing upwards. 

Always though take it out - use it as much as possible and try and excercise it. This will help blood flow, which is very important.

Have now been told that my vein has burnt out and am having a PICC line installed with some urgency for chemo 5 & 6.

Apparently it will take 5-6 months for the vein to return to anything near normal.

So, to help healing along I have ordered a Beurer HK35 Therapeutic Heating Pad from Amazon.

For those interested -

I also found - that when having a hot bath - it was so much easier to exercise the arm, especially as I now have restriction in stretching it. It did help with the massage and trying to very gentrly stretch it from time to time.


Hoping this is of help to some of you.


Sue xxx

Complementary Therapy


I have no idea if this works but as massage  is  recommended for chemo veins I thought it was worth a try.  While visiting my complemenary therapy service I mentioned my sore veins to the aromatherapist and she mixed up a pot of cream to use.  It’s approximately 120g aqueous cream with 12 drops of black pepper and 12 drops of juniper essential oils mixed in.  This is to be massaged onto the affected arm a minimum of three times a day although more frequently is fine.  Using upward strokes is good for rubbing the cream in and then small circular movements with the thumb over the affected veins to help break down any cording.


Hope that makes sense!


B x

What is Cording?

Quick question. I have a lymph node of cancer in my right armpit (same side as breast cancer) and I know I will need surgery after Christmas when chemo has fnished. But I’ve had both chemo so far in my right hand partly because I’ve had a limpoma (fatty tissue lump) cone up on my left arm in the crook of my elbow). All checked by ultrasound.  I’ve now got some aches in my left arm a bit further down than my limpoma. Will stretching and heat wrap help on that? I know, I need to phone my team for advice… I’m just worn down by every thing at the moment including myself.

Hi all,

we have another good tip - via Belle - and as amusing as the name may sound - it does seem to help with veins and also skin issues from radiotherapy.

Udder cream - please do not laugh - yes, it was initially developed for cows, lol - but have a nose round the web site and all will become clear. These products are also available in the UK and are paraben free, which is great for those of us, who rather not have them in our cosmetics.


Sue xx



Miso Soup


I found this advice for plumping up veins pre canulation on (

'Here’s what I found worked. The night before chemo, drink a ton of water. If you get up to pee in the middle of the night, drink more water. 

Also, have a big bowl or double-size mug bowl of strong miso soup. The high salt content will help hold the water in your body. You can buy miso paste (usually refrigerated, but some types are in packets on a shelf – don’t buy “instant” or things in a box, just get the paste) and add it to hot water, and that’s all you need to do. It tastes good as well.

The morning of chemo, have some more water and more miso soup. The more water you can get in you and the more salt, the better you’ll find that your veins hold up. When I started doing this (after that six-needle-sticks episode, which of course made me cry), I never had another problem.’


However, I bought the Clearspring Organic Miso Paste from Waitrose £2.35 for four sachets (only place I could find it!) and only drank one sachet the night before chemo and on the morning as I hadn’t read the advice about doubling up.  I may double up for future attempts as my veins are shocking at the moment: sore, swollen and painful.  I don’t know why the powder is sniffed at in the original post and so long as it’s got salt in it I would think that it would work as well.


As far as salt goes, I’ve tried the above mentioned Clearspring variety which has 14.33g of salt per 100g and, in my opinion, tastes vile.  On the advice of others I’ve since bought the Itsu brand which tastes much better but has less salt (vegetarian miso 9.5g standard miso 10.4g salt per 100g).


I’ve used miso now for chemos 4 and 5 and it seems to have made a world of difference.  I’ll definitely be doing it for my last one too.


B x

Hi ladies, was trespassing to get the miso soup link and saw the reference to Udder Cream, not sure wether you find this to be helpful, but it has actually come out since the original ‘Udderly Smooth Cream,’ used in Oz.


which I have used for several years now…it was this cream that was initially made for cows…goodness knows how true that is, but the cream is very useful and was in the St Lukes hospital pharmacy…it is expensive tho. As one with lymphoedema i can recommend it, but there are cheaper creams out there which do the job.


Anyway best of luck.It is sold on Amazon 


Udderly Smooth Moisturising Cream: Beauty › Udderly-Sm…





Yes, you make an excellent point about parabens. Thank you.

it is a better cream tho, I think. But of course, people must make. Their own choices. Incidentally, Boots no 7 creams too all have paranens in and i wrote to them, but they werent interested.


its all an uphill climb.


love and hugs, Moijanxx

Just popping in to add a thought re vein care. Having had 3xEC I have cording to my veins and was also finding the process of finding a vein for cannulation increasingly stressful. As I was moving onto weekly Paclitaxol (and therefore weekly bloods) I asked if I could have a PICC line. This was ordered by doc with no discussion and I went to have it fitted on Friday. As it happens my veins would not take the guide wire so I was fitted with a Hickman line instead. All the nurses I met expressed concern that ladies are referred so late and that they wished everyone was referred as a matter of routine before chemo starts, as is done in most western countries. I know it is not everyone’s cup of tea but having a line is an option worth considering if your veins are suffering. I have to say that my experience of having treatment after the line was fitted was brilliant and I feel that I have made the right decision for me. 

Hi Belle, just wanted to say hat your earlier tip re Miso soup seems to work for me…have tried it for 2 cycles so far as im waiting till i feel up to having a port o cath…but ive found that it works and i pasted it into the secondary’s threads too, so as to help them.



Hi all

this thread is so neccessary and I wish I knew when I started chemo all of the information, which is on this thread.

It would have avoided so many challenges I had - and the ‘burnt’ veins, which are so painful and still limit the full stretch of my ‘treatment’ arm. It seems to take such a long time for them to heal.