Until recently, peritoneal surface malignancy (cancer of the abdominal cavity lining) has been untreatable because traditional cancer medications are not effective. Memorial Cancer Institute offers an advanced option — hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). HIPEC can make you feel better and more productive. It can help you live longer and stop cancer from coming back.
HIPEC, also called hot chemo, is a dual approach to treatment for peritoneal surface malignancy. First, a surgeon performs cytoreductive surgery to remove as much visible cancer from your abdomen as possible.
Then, while they have access to your abdomen, the surgical team injects heated chemotherapy into your belly. The chemotherapy circulates for about 90 minutes, destroying microscopic cancer cells that remain after surgery. Finally, we drain the medication before closing your incision(s).
Benefits of HIPEC
HIPEC can offer several benefits for carefully selected patients:
- Studies show that patients who have HIPEC can return to normal activities and even survive the disease.
- HIPEC has limited side effects compared to traditional chemotherapy because it doesn’t circulate throughout your bloodstream.
- Because the medication doesn’t enter your blood, we can use higher doses for greater effectiveness.
- Heating the chemo helps it penetrate deeper into peritoneal surfaces and kill cells not visible during surgery.
- HIPEC involves one trip to the operating room, not multiple treatments over several weeks or months.
HIPEC: What to Expect
The entire procedure takes four to 10 hours, and recovery in the hospital is 10 to 12 days. The Memorial team walks you through every step to ensure you and your family are ready. We keep you and your loved ones well-informed throughout the journey.
Memorial has a specific protocol to manage pain after surgery, prevent infection and restore your digestive system function. A team helps you meet certain important milestones, including walking, eating and going to the bathroom. This will ensure you are safely able to go home.
In addition to your cancer surgeon, your HIPEC team includes:
- Anesthesiologists: These physicians will help you understand and select medications to prevent pain during surgery.
- Integrative medicine specialists: Our integrative medicine team helps you address many factors affecting your overall health before and after surgery. Examples include nutrition, sleep and mental health. Complementary therapies such as massage and acupuncture can help you cope with symptoms.
- Dietitians: Our nutrition experts can help you maintain a healthy weight, maximize your well-being and minimize symptoms.
- Pain specialists: These experts manage your pain after surgery to make sure you stay as comfortable as possible.
- Physical therapists: This team helps you recover from surgery and regain your strength.
Am I Eligible for HIPEC?
HIPEC is an aggressive and complex treatment option. At Memorial Cancer Institute, a multidisciplinary team of experts reviews your case to determine whether HIPEC can help you. We carefully consider the amount of cancer in your system and your overall health. Then we recommend HIPEC or another course of action.
No matter what treatment course we recommend, we spend as much time as necessary with you and your family to answer all your questions. We want you to understand the disease, your options and the treatment we suggest.