Cancer pain management brings patients relief

For 16 years, Rose Trapolino had a hard time walking because of the pain and tingling in her feet. The breast cancer survivor suffered from peripheral neuropathy – pain caused by nerve damage – that resulted from chemotherapy. Trapolino tried medications and other treatments to reduce the pain in her feet, but nothing worked. She had plenty of company. During the first month of chemotherapy, this kind of pain occurs 68% of the time. Traditionally these patients have been treated with opioids or narcotics, along with medications that weren’t developed for cancer pain but that help with its management, such as anti-seizure medications and antidepressants. But these medications don’t always relieve the pain, says Salahadin Abdi, M.D., Ph.D., chair of Pain Medicine. They also can have side effects and be addictive. Innovative cancer pain therapy brings positive results About 18 months ago, Abdi began treating neuropathy patients using scrambler therapy, which involves placing electrodes around the areas of numbness and pain. A “scrambler” machine connected to the electrodes sends normal impulses to the brain from the affected area so the brain perceives them as normal sensations instead of pain. Patients participate in 45 minute sessions for five to 10 days. “Our neuropathy patients’ preliminary experiences have been promising,” Abdi says. “Not only did they report less pain, they also regained sensation. And most importantly, their quality of life improved.” Trapolino started with the scrambler therapy machine and saw a difference after the second session. After the third session, the pain was gone, and she started feeling her feet again. “I was in constant pain. The neuropathy affected everything,” Trapolino...