Many of us have heard of hypothermia, when the body’s temperature drops below a desired degree causing adverse effects and sometimes death. However, there is a cancer treatment option called hyperthermia which is the opposite of hypothermia. Hyperthermia is also known as thermal therapy or thermotherapy; these types of therapies are used to treat cancer. Some research conducted in this area have shown that high heat temperatures may damage or even kill cancer cells with minimal damage to surrounding cells and tissue. By killing cancerous cells and damaging the growth proteins in the cells hyperthermia has been shown to shrink some tumors.
Hyperthermia is usually never used as a stand-alone treatment of cancer; it is most commonly combine with radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Hyperthermia may cause damage to cells to make them more sensitive to radiation. Hyperthermia and radiation therapy are usually administered in the same day within a few hours of each other. Hyperthermia has been shown to enhance the effectiveness of some cancer fighting drugs. Hyperthermia treatments have been tested on a wide variety of cancers and have shown that when combine with radiation and/or chemotherapy there was a significant reduction of cancer tumor size. These test results are no conclusive but are promising.
There are several different methods in receiving hyperthermia treatments local hyperthermia is when heat is applied to a small area, externally for tumors that are on the skin or near the surface, intraluminal to treat tumor near cavities of the body, interstitial are used to treat deep tumors, like ones found in the brain. There are also Regional hyperthermia treatments such as for deep tissue, Regional perfusion for cancers in the arms and legs, and continuous hyperthermic peritoneal perfusion which are for cancers in the abdomen region. There is also the whole body hyperthermia treatment option which raises the entire body’s temperature to about 108 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hyperthermia treatment does cause some side effects. These side effects may include:
- Discomfort or pain
- Tissue swelling
- Blood clots
- Cardiac and vascular disorders
Side effects may be similar to that of chemotherapy side effects. Chemotherapy side effects include:
- Appetite changes
- Bleeding problems
- Hair loss
- Memory changes
- Nausea and vomiting
- Nerve changes
- Sexual and fertility changes in men and women
- Skin and nail changes
- Urination changes
If you have any questions about any cancer treatment options talk to your doctor. Your doctor will have the most information about what is best for you.