For many breast cancer patients who undergo mastectomy or lumpectomy, pain persists for weeks after the surgery. But for between twenty and thirty percent of those patients, the pain never goes away. More doctors are finding ways to bring relief.
In October 2009, Lauren Gilbert was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer. A lumpectomy spared her breast and saved her life, but started a cycle of pain she was not prepared for
"I called them zingers, where all of a sudden an electrical shock goes right though my breast from my back," Gilbert said.
It's called PMPS, post mastectomy pain syndrome.
"Some patients will describe a shooting burning pain. Sometimes across the chest wall, other times in the axilla of the arm pit. It can even come down the arm a bit," said Dr. David Maine.
Dr. Maine is a pain management specialist in Baltimore. He says injuries to the nerve branches in the chest wall create chronic pain, tearing away at quality of life.
"I wasn't suicidal at that point, but I didn't know how much longer I wanted to live with that much pain all day, every day," Lauren Gilbert said.
"Her personality changed. That was hard to deal with," said Lauren's husband Mike Gilbert.
Using imaging guidance, Dr. Maine placed a needle into the rib area on top of the nerve root, applying a corticosteroid or nerve block, bringing Lauren's pain down from a nine or ten.
"After the procedure I had two weeks ago, I'm at a one or two most days," she said.
"I got my wife back," Mike Gilbert said.
Doctors say the procedure can be repeated, as needed to control pain. In addition to this therapy, doctors can also prescribe medication commonly used for epilepsy that is also used to treat neuropathic pain.
If you would like more information, check out the medical breakthroughs on the web at www.ivanhoe.com.
Procedure can ease pain for women who had lumpectomy, mastectomy
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