When bowel cancer spreads to the peritoneum, the thin layer of tissue lining the inside of the abdomen and covering the stomach, liver or bowel, these areas of cancer are known as a peritoneal metastases. Traditional cancer treatments have not been very effective in treating this advanced, late stage cancer and HIPEC or Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy combined with cytoreductive surgery is an innovative treatment that has proven effective for some patients.

Cytoreductive surgery involves removing all visible cancer tumours and some or all of the organs affected. Once this has been performed, Dr Jamie Murphy circulates a heated sterile solution containing chemotherapy throughout the peritoneal cavity for up to two hours to kill any remaining cancer cells.

By delivering chemotherapy in this manner, drug absorption is improved and exposure to the rest of the body is minimised, so this is not associated with some of the normal side effects of chemotherapy.

What are the potential risks of HIPEC surgery?

This is a major operation which can involve resection of multiple organs so there are a number of possible side effects, including wound infection, abscesses, impaired wound healing or a reaction to the chemotherapy. Dr Jamie Murphy will advise you on these before you decide to proceed.

How long does HIPEC surgery take?

The delivery of chemotherapy into the peritoneal cavity takes between 60 and 90 minutes, but before that Dr Jamie Murphy will first perform cytoreductive surgery to remove all visible tumours and the time this takes will vary from patient to patient. Generally, the whole procedure can take up to ten hours or more.

How long does it take to recover from HIPEC surgery?

The recovery process again depends on the individual patient’s age and general health. On average, patients stay in hospital for up to two weeks and can return to normal activities after two to three months.