NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Pain relief could be on the way for thousands of cancer patients whose disease has spread to the spine.
It’s a way to both stop the pain and the tumor in the bone itself that involves the use of radiation and epoxy cement.
Allison Mizrahi’s doctors thought a lump she found on her breast was just scar tissue from a previous breast surgery until sometime later she started to develop terrible back pain.
“You can’t lift anything, you can’t bend over,” she said. “I couldn’t make my bed in the morning, I couldn’t help my kids get ready for school. I couldn’t do anything.”
A mammogram and an MRI revealed that Allison had breast cancer that had spread to her spine, causing at least one vertebra to collapse.
“The structural integrity of the spine is no longer there because these cancer cells eat away the bone, the vertebral bodies and make them unstable,” Dr. Ahmed Latefi from North Shore University Hospital said.
As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reports, normally a patient like Allison would need surgery to stabilize her spine followed by radiation to treat the bone tumor.
It can be a long and painful process.
“Surgery patients were in the hospital for prolonged periods of time,” Dr. Latefi said. “They go to rehab and then after they recuperated and the incision has healed, then they go to radiation.”
Now, doctors at North Shore University Hospital are doing all of that in a one-hour procedure. Using a special device, they first radiate the bone tumor right in the operating room, then through the same cannula, they fill the vertebra with medical grade epoxy cement to stabilize the spine.
“Our patients actually resume their daily activities the night of the procedure,” Dr. Maged Ghaly said. “We found that one week there is an 80 percent drop in their pain.”
Rather than weeks of recuperation, Allison is now back to caring for her two young children.
“I have my life back,” she said. “I could move, I could walk, I could… I’m starting to lift things and starting to get my strength back.”
The treatment is not a cure for Allison’s original breast cancer, for which she’s still undergoing treatment. What the treatment does, instead, is stop the debilitating back pain, control the tumor in her spine, and give her back a decent quality of life.