WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- One in eight women is diagnosed with breast cancer over her lifetime. Jackie Gillan is one of them.
Shortly after her diagnosis, she had a mastectomy and a few weeks after that, breast reconstruction. Jackie was anxious to get on with her life, but worried that side effects from two surgeries might slow down her recovery.
Anesthesiologist Dr. Marian Sherman says these worries are typical.
"Patients are extremely concerned about how much pain they're going to experience after their operation and they're also concerned about the types of side effects with a variety of pain medications."
Of the several pain management options from which to choose, doctors at George Washington University Hospital recommended Jackie go with PVB. That stands for Paravertebral, says anesthesiologist Dr. Kate Brimm.
"It's a nerve block that can be placed prior to having any type of surgery. In this case breast cancer. It's designed to cover the nerves as they wrap around the chest wall."
What makes PVB so effective is that it's targeted pain control exactly at the surgical site. It's like an epidural, but just on one side. The procedure takes five to ten minutes.
Women can actually go home with the nerve block in place.The numbing medication is contained in a plastic ball which can be carried in a pouch around the body. When the ball is flat, it and the catheter can be removed and thrown away. Typically it's in place for about four to five days.
Dr. Sherman says "If we get an early start on controlling pain we can improve the pain control experience and to the extent we can use the Paravertebral catheters we can minimize the amount of IV medication and oral medication the patients are required to take."