Cancers that are located in the abdominal cavity can be difficult to treat, especially when they have spread to the lining. The types of cancer that can fit into this category include colorectal cancer, ovarian cancer, cancer of the appendix and gastric cancer, as well as some cancers from mesothelioma and a rare form of cancer called peritoneal carcinomatosis.
A novel procedure called intraperitoneal hyperthermic chemotherapy (HIPEC) combines surgery, heat and chemotherapy, creating a powerful treatment that can dramatically improve the quality of life and sometimes even extend it for patients with these types of cancer. Not all patients meet the criteria for undergoing HIPEC, but for those who do, it can be very helpful.
What Happens During the HIPEC Procedure?
The HIPEC procedure is not as complex as it sounds. The peritoneum is the membrane that lines your abdominal cavity and also covers the organs inside of it, so “intraperitoneal” refers to treatment delivered throughout the abdominal cavity. “Hyperthermic chemotherapy” describes a chemotherapy solution that has been heated, a process shown to intensify its effect.
The first step of the HIPEC procedure is a common type of cancer surgery called debulking or “cytoreductive surgery.” This is a surgical procedure in which the surgeon removes all visible tumors from inside a patient’s abdominal cavity.
The next step is administration of a heated sterile solution (chemotherapy) into the peritoneal cavity, essentially bathing the entire area in toxins that target the cancerous cells. The cancer-killing medication circulates throughout the patient’s abdomen for about two hours. The goal of the HIPEC procedure is to eradicate all remaining cancer.
How HIPEC Helps Cancer Patients
Though it has been safely and successfully performed for many years, HIPEC is not widely available outside of academic medical centers. We’re proud to offer it here at Edward Hospital in Naperville, Illinois, for patients throughout the Chicago area, where patients benefit from the care of a renowned surgeon with extensive experience performing HIPEC.
HIPEC offers many advantages to patients. Not only does the application of heat intensify the effect of the chemotherapy drugs, but this method minimizes the effect of these highly toxic drugs on the rest of the body. As a result, patients experience greater likelihood of a positive outcome with fewer dangerous and unpleasant side effects.