New procedure can ease pain from radiation
Cancer survivor says she got her life back.
MENTOR, Ohio — There is new hope for cancer patients who experience pain from radiation, and it lies in their own body fat.
Five years ago, Carla Clark’s world came crashing down. Her husband was dying, and the couple had a 3-year-old girl.
Then came the chilling diagnosis: Clark had breast cancer.
Her treatment involved a lumpectomy followed by high-dose radiation.
Though her cancer went into remission, it left a sharp, stabbing pain in her breast and ribs. Clark feared it would be there forever.
“It was painful all the time and swollen,” she said. “I was really tired and not wanting to do anything.”
But that changed this summer when Clark learned about something called an ‘autologous fat transfer.’
Dr. Paul Vanek of Mentor could remove fat from her belly through liposuction, process it into a liquid, and then inject it where Clark had radiation wounds.
“By doing so, she’ll reverse the radiation effects that are stiffness, inability to move,” Dr. Vanek said.
The outpatient procedure lasted less than two hours. Afterward, Clark was able to lift her right arm over her head.
It was the first time in years she could do that.
Dr. Vanek points out his success stories do not just come from cancer patients, either.
He also used autologous fat transfers to help a mechanic who severely burned his arm, as well as a golfer who shattered an eye socket.
“It’s very minimally invasive. The patient usually has very little bruising, and she immediately feels a difference,” Dr. Vanek said, pointing out the healing is done without drugs.
For Clark, it gave her back her life.
“I’ve been playing basketball with my daughter… feeling better and doing more things with her,” she said.
Yet there are still some things consider.
According to the Center for Restorative Breast Surgery, there have been no large, long-term clinical studies on the procedure, and they warn it may not work on all patients.
Multiple sessions may be needed for best results.
Also, insurance companies do not consider it to be anything but experimental, so patients could pay out of pocket.