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Pain Relief for Cancer Patients

New treatment eases spinal pain.

Two-thirds of cancer patients will have their disease spread to their bones. The spine is the most common site and it can mean severe pain as tumors grow and press on nerves. Now, there’s a new way to heat up and zap away the cancer.

A simple walk is a victory for Michaelene D’Ambrosio. Six months ago, she was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. 

“70% of my breast tissue was tumor,” Michaelene said. That tumor had spread to her spine, causing severe pain.

“I couldn’t bend. I couldn’t reach. I couldn’t walk. The pain was just constant,” Michaelene said.

“It was heartbreaking,” Ashley Johnson, Michaelene’s granddaughter said.

Then Michaelene found Dr. Rakesh Donthineni who treats spinal tumors with STAR ablation.

“The goal is truly to kill the tumor,” Rakesh Donthineni, MD, Cancer Specialist for Spine and Extremities said.

First, he inserts a needle into the spine. Next, he ablates the tumor with heat that reaches 100 degrees or more. Then, he fills in the hole with cement. The ablation doesn’t carry the same side effects as traditional chemo or radiation, and 95 percent of patients report pain relief.

“You’re reducing the size of the tumors. You’re reducing the effects on improving the quality of life, and that’s the goal in these patients,” Dr. Donthineni said.

“I have been pain-free since the surgery,” Michaelene said.

Now, pain doesn’t get in the way of spending precious time with her granddaughter Ashley.

The doctor says he can ablate multiple tumors at the same time. Patients may experience some back pain and there’s always a risk that the tumors can grow back. The procedure typically takes 45 minutes from start to finish.

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