Innovative Use of Botox(R) Reduces Pain of Breast Cancer Surgery
An innovative use for Botox® is bringing tremendous pain relief to women recuperating from breast cancer surgery, offering them greater comfort as they enter the chemotherapy or radiation stage of their cancer battle. Dr. Allen Gabriel of PeaceHealth Medical Group - Plastic Surgery, one of the nation’s premiere breast reconstruction specialists, has pioneered the use of Botox® as a pain control method superior to traditional narcotics.
“If a woman loses her breasts to cancer, she has the option to have reconstructive surgery,” said Dr. Gabriel. “To prepare for the reconstruction, we work to replace the lost tissue by implanting a temporary ‘expander’ below the skin and muscle in the patient’s chest to slowly stretch the tissue. Over the course of several weeks, this expansion creates enough new tissue to aid in successful breast reconstruction. Although the procedure is safe and effective, I was never happy seeing my patients’ discomfort during the expansion process. But through the use of Botox® their pain is greatly reduced, allowing them to focus on fighting their cancer rather than fighting their pain.”
Dr. Gabriel and collaborator Dr. G. Patrick Maxwell theorized that injections of Botox® would offer excellent pain relief by temporarily paralyzing the muscle, leading to fewer spasms during the breast reconstruction recovery period. They originally presented their positive findings from their study at the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery 20th Biennial Congress in 2010. Since then hundreds of patients have received this innovative treatment to make reconstructive surgery more tolerable.
13 years ago, Chris Geraci elected to have a breast augmentation, relying on traditional pain control methods during her recovery. “I found that when I had muscle spasms, no amount of pain medication was enough. During my recovery, the pain of those spasms literally brought me to my knees. I was miserable for a couple of weeks.”
Ten years after her breast augmentation, Geraci learned she had breast cancer, and underwent a double mastectomy plus breast reconstruction. Her previous experience prepared her for the worst. This time around, however, Dr. Gabriel injected Botox® into Geraci’s chest muscles to paralyze the muscles and reduce the pain.
“I expected to wake from the second surgery in tremendous pain, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as my previous surgery,” said Geraci. “I didn’t have a single muscle spasm. I was almost completely pain free and never even opened the bottle of pain medication. The difference in recovery is incredible.”
Sherry Stose had reconstructive breast surgery after her battle with breast cancer in 2012. Stose is a registered nurse who researched the procedure and knew of the muscle spasm pain other women were suffering. Dr. Gabriel injected Botox® into Stose’s pectoralis major muscle during her reconstruction, paralyzing the muscle and preventing the spasms.
“My pain level for the procedure was very minimal, requiring little pain medication,” said Stose. “I was quite surprised. That’s a powerful muscle, and the Botox® completely prevented it from spasms. It’s phenomenal how beautifully it worked.”
Dr. Gabriel would like to see insurance companies offer coverage for the Botox® medication so more patients can benefit. “It works. I’ve used Botox on hundreds of my patients with outstanding results. It’s clearly an excellent choice, and it saddens me that many patients are steered away from it because their insurance company will only cover the more traditional, but less effective painkillers. My hope is that as patients become better informed they will insist on this superior option.”
About Dr. Allen Gabriel:
Allen Gabriel, MD, FACS is Board Certified in Plastic Surgery. He is the Assistant Professor of Surgery at Loma Linda University Medical Center and a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. He practices at PeaceHealth Medical Group – Plastic Surgery located at 505 NE 87th Avenue, Suite 250 in Vancouver, WA.
To set up an interview with Dr. Gabriel contact (360) 414-7782.