Taking the Pain Out of Cancer Treatment

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers among men. In 1999, it was responsible for at least 40,000 deaths. A drug normally used to treat heroin addicts is included in an approach to prostate surgery that alleviates some of the pain.

By watching him walk and seeing him smile, you might not realize it, but Richard just had major surgery.

Richard says, “I really would recommend it, as the most easy surgery I’ve ever had in my life.”

Gerald Chodak, M.D., a urologist with the University of Chicago’s Weiss Memorial Hospital, has helped develop a new approach to a painful form of surgery called radical retropubic prostatectomy. “The whole goal has been to facilitate the recovery time, help people recover more rapidly and get back to normal activities as soon as possible,” he says.

Instead of being put to sleep, a patient is given an epidural, numbing them from the waist down. After surgery, methadone is administered as a short-term pain reliever — replacing morphine.

Dr. Chodak explains, “The pain response is blocked a little bit more effectively than it is with something like morphine.”

Methadone allowed Richard to avoid the drowsiness associated with more powerful narcotics. He was able to eat the night of his surgery and went home the next day.

Richard says, “If I have two years to live or 25 years to live, I’m going to live each day to its fullest, and I’m not going to worry about nothing anymore.”

Doctors predict he has years to live because the cancer did not spread beyond the prostate. Richard now focuses on spending quality time with his wife.

During the past five years, more than 70 percent of patients who were treated under the new guidelines have been released from the hospital the day after surgery. Doctors say only about one percent of patients have been readmitted.

Source: Ivanhoe News @ 2000

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