A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Heated chemotherapy treatment provides options for ‘incurable’ cancer

Patient and doctor in a hospital room - Heated chemotherapy, HIPEC procedure

A new procedure called hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) has significantly increased survivability in select patients with a cancer known as peritoneal carcinomatosis.

Being diagnosed with cancer of the lining of the abdominal cavity, or peritoneal carcinomatosis, was considered incurable just two decades ago.

In the last decade, a new procedure called hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) has significantly increased survivability in select patients with this type of cancer.

“Traditionally all peritoneal carcinomatosis cases were considered end stage until about the 1990s. Its prognosis was dismal. People with peritoneal carcinomatosis would expect to survive maybe 8-12 months,” said Dr. Rohit Sharma, a surgical oncologist with Marshfield Clinic Health System who performs the HIPEC procedure.

The procedure typically begins by surgically removing any visible tumors in the patient’s abdomen. The surgeon then puts heated chemotherapy into the body cavity to kill any remaining cancer cells. Research has shown that both heat and chemotherapy kill cancer cells individually.

“When we combine the two, the effect is more than each of them individually. It has a multiplicative effect,” Sharma said.

Preventive measures

Surgeons also use HIPEC as a preventive measure in certain patients at high risk of peritoneal carcinomatosis. This may reduce the chance that cancer forms in the future.

HIPEC decreases the likelihood of our patients having the recurrence of disease in their abdomen,” said Dr. Jessica Wernberg, a surgical oncologist with Marshfield Clinic Health System who performs this specialized procedure.

Side effects

Unlike traditional chemotherapy treatments, side effects from the chemotherapy used in the HIPEC procedure are limited despite the more effective higher doses of chemotherapy used.

“Most of the side effects of traditional chemotherapy are pretty much avoided,” Sharma said.

Since the HIPEC procedure does include an extensive surgery, a prolonged recovery is expected.

The HIPEC procedure is one of many cancer treatment options available from Marshfield Clinic Health System for cancer patients.

I think it is critical to have the whole gamut of surgical options available to our cancer patients,” Wernberg said. “Whether it is liver resection for metastatic disease or the HIPEC procedure, having all of these available under one roof is important.”

The HIPEC procedure still may not be right for everyone. See a surgical oncologist to determine if this procedure is right for you. For more information about the HIPEC procedure and others available, contact a Health System cancer care team member at 866-520-2510.

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