With Breast Cancer Awareness Month coming to a close, there’s a chance that those unaffected by the disease may soon let it slip from their minds for another full year. Fortunately, a new study has opened the door to keep people talking about the disease well into the future. In October, Danish researchers looking into the potential of reducing the recurrence of breast cancer announced at the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists that they may have come across a breakthrough in anesthesia for breast cancer surgery. Even if it goes unnoticed by those unaffected, everyone else will see a glimmer of hope.
In an admittedly small-scale study, Danish researcher Dr. Palle Steen Carlsson and her colleagues followed 77 patients who had been treated for breast cancer over a six-year period. The study started with patients who were put into two different groups that received different solutions of anesthesia for breast cancer surgery. In a control group, patients were given anesthesia combined with a simple saline solution. In the experimental group, patients had their anesthesia combined with a nerve block.
Studies of this sort have been attempted before, but Carlsson’s is the first to actually study patients after their diagnosis and treatment rather than simply reviewing past records. Six years after the patients were treated, researchers went back to discover which ones had no recurrence, which ones did and which didn’t survive the six-year period. The results were, in a word, stunning.
Anyone who has seen the nature of breast cancer treatment can likely understand the disheartening feeling that takes place when a recurrence occurs after going through treatment. Of course, the most detrimental aspect of a recurrence is the fact that it puts a patient’s life back in danger. Though the finished study must first be published in a peer-reviewed journal to be widely accepted, the results already have the medical community in a buzz.
Carlsson and her colleagues found that, after six years, 37 percent of patients who received the saline solution mixture had suffered a recurrence. By comparison, only 13 percent of those who had undergone the nerve block and anesthesia solution had redeveloped the condition. Additionally, 32 percent of individuals in the saline solution group died within the six-year period; but only 10 percent in the nerve block group suffered the same fate.
While a decrease in recurrence is more than enough to justify using a nerve block solution in breast cancer patients, there are a few other common benefits that come along with this anesthetic therapy. The study showed that women who had undergone the combination of anesthesia and nerve block were less likely to have a stress response during and after surgery. In addition, pain control was much easier during the process.
Researchers also reviewed the medical files of all patients after the six year hiatus to check on their opiod use status. These drugs are given to individuals to control their pain after surgery. Amazingly enough, the women who had received the nerve block treatment needed fewer opiods to relieve pain even after more than half a decade later.
Breast cancer is a detrimental disease that will end up affecting one in every eight women during her lifetime, and sadly, women in certain stages of the disease only have a 22 percent chance of survival. This is why research into the disease is constantly pushing forward in an effort to find a way to increase survival rates for those affected. While the aforementioned study is promising, more research is still needed to fully understand how to fight and conquer the disease.
Author bio: Curtis Fease is a professional writer living in Grovetown, GA. He has received two research-intensive degrees from Georgia Regents University and now spends his time writing and volunteering.
abeo Management Corporation (abeo) serves as a leading source of revenue cycle management and practice management with a specialization in anesthesia. The company leverages its people, processes, and software to serve independent practices, surgery centers, hospitals and healthcare systems with a scope of services that include billing, coding, transcription, practice management, and business consulting.