Mercy Pain Management Specialist Dr. David Maine Discusses Treatment for Post-Mastectomy Pain
When a woman undergoes breast cancer surgery the goal, of course, is to eliminate the disease, but sometimes a debilitating side effect after surgery is chronic pain that can last for years.
Beth White is a breast cancer survivor. She had a double mastectomy in 2006, but what she didn't expect afterward was the shooting pain on both her right and left sides that never went away.
"It feels like an ice pick that stabs you, a heated ice pick, stabs you in my armpit and the heat and pain goes down to here, and also comes from the armpit," White said.
White is not alone. According to pain management specialist Dr. David Maine, Director of The Center for Interventional Pain Medicine at Mercy, many women experience what's called post-mastectomy pain syndrome, which is chronic pain after breast cancer surgery.
"It's not just really mastectomy that can cause pain; really any treatment directed toward the breast, even if it's breast-conserving therapy can result in chronic pain, and the thought is that the nerves around the breast in that surrounding tissue get injured. It can be one nerve or multiple nerves and they can cause this burning sensation," Dr. Maine said.
"I just thought it was natural pain and thought I had to live with it," White said.
Patients don't have to live with it. Doctors can identify and treat the nerves causing the pain.
"Sometimes those are medications. Sometimes those are small nerve procedures. They can include blocks by just putting the anti-inflammatory on that nerve and local anesthetic and making sure that the pain goes away. That gives us the diagnostic clarity we need, and then sometimes we do more permanent procedures, which can include chemical destructive procedures and in some cases, surgery, to actually remove the nerve," Dr. Maine said.
Surgery to remove damaged nerves on her left side was the answer for White and doctors will do the same on her right side in a few months.
View Mercy pain management specialist Dr. David Maine’s interview regarding post-mastectomy pain.
Founded in 1874, Mercy Medical Center is a university-affiliated medical facility named one of the top 100 hospitals in the U.S. by Thomson-Reuters with a national reputation for women’s health. Mercy is home to the nationally acclaimed Weinberg Center for Women’s Health and Medicine as well as the $400+ million, 20-story Mary Catherine Bunting Center. For more information visit Mercy online at www.mdmercy.com, Facebook, Twitter or call 1-800-MD-MERCY.
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