Has Chemo Treatment Left You With A Catheter? How Can You Keep Your Medical Costs Low?

If you're like most who work outside the healthcare fields, your knowledge of urinary catheters is limited to daytime medical supply commercials or perhaps a single experience following a c-section or other medical procedure. However, a cancer diagnosis can turn many of your preconceived notions about health upside down, and after undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment, you may find yourself requiring the services of a urinary catheter for the foreseeable future. What should you know about using a catheter, and how can you keep your most recent medical development from breaking the bank when it comes to supply costs? Read on to learn more about what you can expect during your early days of catheter usage, as well as what you can do to keep your ongoing medical expenses as low as possible.

What should you know about using (and changing) a urinary catheter?

Although the prospect of using a catheter rather than urinating the old fashioned way -- let alone removing and replacing this catheter each time it's filled -- can be daunting, this process should be a breeze for anyone who has already demonstrated the strength to endure a lengthy and difficult chemo regimen. Like anything else, practice makes perfect, so you'll want to perform your own catheter changes at least a few times while you're still hospitalized (or under the supervision of a home health nurse) to ensure you're using the most efficient techniques and aren't apt to run into any problems.

Your first step should be to gather your supplies and wash your hands with antibacterial soap. Changing a catheter under unsanitary conditions can dramatically increase your risk of a painful infection, and minimizing strain on your recovering immune system is crucial, especially during the first few months following chemo treatment. If you're a male, you'll then want to carefully fold back your foreskin (if necessary) and insert the tip of the catheter into your penis. After urine begins to flow, direct the flow into the toilet or collecting container, then push the catheter gently back until you feel resistance. After the flow begins to decrease to a trickle, your bladder should feel much emptier -- if you still feel the need to urinate but your catheter isn't doing the trick, you may want to try removing and reinserting it to ensure you've placed it far enough into your urethra.

For women, the insertion process can be trickier, but should still be manageable with practice. You'll follow the same steps as a man would, but may need the assistance of a mirror to locate the opening of your urethra for placement of the catheter. Depending upon the brand you've chosen, you may also be able to access a how-to video online to make this process easier.

How can you save money on the catheters and other urological supplies you now need to purchase?

Your first step when investigating catheter costs, regardless of your own financial solvency, should be to request some catheter samples from your doctor's office. Not only can these samples help stretch your supply of catheters for the month, you may find that one specific brand or style of catheter is much easier to insert and change than another, making it a better choice when you do wind up purchasing a new supply. 

You'll then want to check your insurance coverage. For those on Medicare, you should be able to obtain up to 200 catheters per month at no (or low) cost, and catheters in excess of this amount can also be available for a minimal additional charge. Those who aren't yet old enough for Medicare coverage may qualify for reduced rates by subscribing to a monthly delivery service that offers a bulk discount. Whatever path you take, you should avoid attempts to sterilize and re-use your catheters at home -- although some have done so with few negative side effects, the risk of infection can significantly increase whenever you insert a used catheter. Go to websites about urological supplies for more information.