October marks National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a campaign dedicated to promoting awareness and useful information about the disease. During this time, we are reminded of the importance of encouraging women to get mammograms regularly, providing support and hope to those who have been affected by breast cancer, and educating those currently dealing with the disease about various treatment options, including mastectomy and breast reconstruction.
While a breast cancer diagnosis can impact a person physically, mentally, and emotionally, undergoing a mastectomy (surgery to remove all breast tissue) also puts patients at three times the risk for being impacted by opioid abuse and addiction.1 With this in mind, Dr. Patrick Borgen, Chair of Surgery and Director of the Breast Center at Maimonides Medical Center in New York City, has made it his mission to help patients through this difficult time, offering the information and guidance they need to not only fight cancer, but to thrive and enjoy life throughout their battle.
Amid a growing opioid epidemic, Dr. Borgen has completely eliminated the use of opioids in more than 1,200 patients undergoing breast-conserving surgery with the use of a non-opioid option. Further, his patients are reporting less pain compared to those receiving opioids as a result of this opioid-sparing approach.1 He utilizes a long-acting numbing medication injected during surgery to help manage pain after surgery. This non-opioid pain management option helps his breast cancer patients get through the first few days of surgery when pain is often at its worst.
Dr. Borgen is passionate about providing his patients with an opioid-free approach, given the emotional and personal struggles his patients are often already dealing with. His hope is that he is able to take one worry off their shoulders by not exposing them to the risks and side effects of opioids, including addiction or dependence.
Whether a surgery is elective or medically necessary, it’s important to have a conversation with your doctor about all available pain management options, including non-opioids. There are helpful discussion guides available for anyone who may be preparing for surgery, including breast reconstruction. You can download them here.
1Rojas, K.E., Manasseh, DM., Flom, P.L. et al. A pilot study of a breast surgery Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) protocol to eliminate narcotic prescription at discharge. Breast Cancer Res Treat 171, 621–626 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10549-018-4859-y