HIPEC questions

Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) is an innovative treatment that has proven to be highly effective in the fight against certain types of cancer. It is particularly known for its effectiveness in fighting abdominal cancers and is typically considered when there are few other options available.

While it is becoming a more commonly used treatment option, many patients still have a lot of questions. Here, we’ll answer the most common questions about HIPEC to help you get a better idea of what it is and how it works.

What is HIPEC cancer treatment?

HIPEC, or Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy, is a targeted cancer treatment used primarily for abdominal cancers. It is often used when the cancer is in late stages, and is localised within the abdomen. It is not typically effective for cancer that has metastasised to other parts of the body.

The unique aspect of HIPEC is that it combines surgery with heated chemotherapy. First, surgeons remove visible tumours as much as possible through cytoreductive surgery. Immediately following this, a heated chemotherapy solution is circulated throughout the abdominal cavity.

This direct approach allows for high concentrations of chemotherapy to come in contact with cancer cells, potentially improving the outcome.

How does HIPEC work?

The process of HIPEC begins with surgery, where the goal is to remove as much of the tumour that is visible to the naked eye. Following the surgical removal of tumours, a heated chemotherapy solution is circulated throughout the abdominal cavity. This ‘chemical bath’ aims to destroy microscopic cancer cells that surgery alone couldn’t eliminate.

The heat helps to increase the effectiveness of the chemotherapy, allowing better penetration into remaining cancer cells, and increasing the likelihood of killing them. This dual approach significantly improves the chances of eliminating the cancer and reduces the risk of its recurrence.

How long will it take to recover after HIPEC?

Recovery after HIPEC treatment varies significantly from one patient to another, largely depending on the extent of the surgery and the patient’s overall health. Some patients may not require extensive surgery, which can lead to a quicker recovery.

Typically, recovery can span several months as patients gradually regain their stamina. Due to the nature of the chemotherapy used in HIPEC, they may also experience symptoms like those associated with irritable bowel syndrome, such as nausea and abdominal cramping.

While these symptoms can be uncomfortable, they are generally milder compared to traditional chemotherapy. There are also usually fewer side effects because the chemotherapy is confined to the abdomen and not systemic.

Can cancer come back after HIPEC surgery?

While HIPEC is an effective treatment for abdominal cancers, like all cancer treatments, there is still a possibility that it can reoccur. The likelihood of recurrence depends on several factors, including the size and type of the tumour, how successfully the tumours were removed during surgery, and individual patient factors. Despite these variables, HIPEC has shown promising results in many cases, often significantly reducing the likelihood of cancer returning.

If you are exploring your treatment options and wondering if HIPEC might be right for you, it’s important to discuss it with a specialist who understands your specific case.

To learn more about HIPEC and to discuss whether it could be a suitable treatment for you, schedule an appointment with Consultant Colorectal Surgeon, Dr Jamie Murphy, by calling 020 3423 7054 or emailing jmurphymedsec@ccf.org .