Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC)

What does HIPEC treat?

HIPEC is a specialized chemotherapy treatment method for patients with cancers that spread throughout the abdomen, i.e., peritoneal carcinomatosis (PC) and pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP). PC is far more common than PMP. PC often comes from invasive cancers, such as colon, stomach, small bowel, appendix, or pancreas cancer. PMP, the so-called “jelly belly”, often comes from rare tumors that produce lots of mucus, such as mucinous tumors of the appendix and mesothelioma (primary peritoneal cancer).

What is HIPEC?

HIPEC is a treatment method of delivering chemotherapy directly to cancer cells growing within your abdomen. Unlike conventional mode of chemotherapy given through your bloodstream, much higher doses of chemotherapy can be effectively delivered to the site of action by HIPEC and kill cancer cells in a single treatment.

HIPEC treatment is also delivered at a higher heat. The chemotherapy is delivered at a temperature of 107 to 109 degrees Fahrenheit. That temperature is slightly above how hot the water is in a nice hot tub bath. This heat leads to a more effective killing of cancer cells by the chemotherapy.

What happens during HIPEC surgery?

Before you receive the HIPEC treatment, you will undergo a cytoreductive surgery (CRS). The goal of CRS is to completely remove and destroy any visible tumors in your abdomen so that the HIPEC treatment will be more effective. After completion of the CRS portion of the surgery, you will receive the HIPEC treatment for about an hour and a half. After the chemotherapy has been delivered, it is drained out of your abdomen. Then your surgeon will close the opening, called an incision, finishing the surgery.

Why get HIPEC?

If you qualify for HIPEC as a treatment method, it is the most targeted concentrated form of chemotherapy available for treating PC and PMP. This means the rest of your body is not exposed to as much chemotherapy as in conventional chemotherapy. It also improves absorption and increases the likelihood that the cancer cells will be affected by the chemotherapy used. It may even reduce some of the side effects of conventional chemotherapy.

How do you qualify for HIPEC?

Your care team will evaluate you to determine if HIPEC is the right treatment method for you. This team may include a medical oncologist, surgical oncologist, radiologist, and pathologist, or some combination of these specialists. They will make this decision based on age, health condition, the origin point of your cancer, as well as the severity of it.

Last reviewed: 
September 2017

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