CHICAGO May 14, 2008 An anesthetic injection into a collection of nerves in the neck of breast cancer survivors may reduce the severity and frequency of debilitating hot flashes and night awakenings associated with breast cancer treatment, according to a new study published online today by The Lancet Oncology and appearing in its June issue.
Hot flashes and sleep dysfunctions often plague breast cancer survivors, especially those who take anti-estrogen medications. Conventional treatments have been only partially effective and may carry serious risks. Previous research has shown that hot flashes experienced by breast cancer survivors are significantly more frequent, severe, and of greater duration than those in menopausal women.
Eugene G. Lipov, MD, and Jaydeep R. Joshi, MD, of Advanced Pain Centers, Hoffman Estates (Chicago), Ill., and co-authors, conducted a pilot study of the safety and efficacy of the stellate ganglion block in 13 breast cancer survivors. It is called a stellate block as it describes the star-shaped collection of nerves in the neck which regulates body temperature and therefore may affect quality of sleep. The block, used by practitioners for over 60 years, is an injection of a numbing solution near the C6 vertebrae that can be performed under either local anesthesia or with twilight sedation. The injection is given with the aid of fluoroscopy (guided X-ray) to ensure correct and safe placement of the needle. The procedure takes approximately 10 minutes to perform in an outpatient setting.
Estrogen-depleting drugs used in the fight against breast cancer often leave womens bodies defenseless against debilitating hot flashes and the sleep disturbances they cause, says Dr. Lipov. This small pilot study conducted in breast cancer survivors confirms our earlier research on healthy menopausal women that the stellate ganglion block can effectively shut off these troubling symptoms. Since these symptoms are generally
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