WTF is a Chemo Bath?

WTF is a Chemo Bath?

This ain't no "hot chemo bath" but it sure would be nice if it was this pleasant!

This ain’t no “hot chemo bath” but it sure would be nice if it was this pleasant!

This week I’ve read several articles on an extremely aggressive, novel approach to treating cancer…. it’s called “Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy OR Hipec”.  (Thanks for sending these articles my way Sue!) 

Now more commonly referred to as a “Hot Chemo Bath”, this novel approach, which couples extensive abdominal surgery with blasts of heated chemotherapy to the abdominal cavity and it’s organs, was once a niche procedure used mainly against cancer of the appendix, an extremely rare type of cancer. Although this treatment has been criticized by many doctors, it offers hope to some patients… and well… desperate times can call for desperate measures.

How does a Chemo Bath work?

In super simple terms, Chemo Bathing works like this… A patient’s belly is literally cut wide open and the surgeon cuts out all visible tumors. Then a machine pumps hot chemotherapy into the patient’s abdomen while nurses gently jiggle the patient’s belly to disperse the drug to every nook and cranny in hopes of killing off any other cancerous cells or tumors. 

Proponents say that if cancer has spread into the abdominal cavity but not elsewhere, then lives can be prolonged by removing all the visible tumor and killing what’s missed with Hot Chemo Bathing.   However,  this procedure is extremely invasive, can require 3-6 months of recuperation and the longer term results are still debatable. 

With that said, more and more of the nation’s leading cancer treatment facilities are now offering this controversial therapy to patients not only with appendix cancer, but with colorectal cancers and ovarian cancers as well. Specifically, University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, and Massachusetts General now provide Hot Chemo Baths for those appendix cancer, colorectal (colon) cancer and ovarian cancer patients whose situation they believe can benefit from this aggressive approach.  And Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in NYC may soon be offering this treatment as well.   

(sources:  NY Times; ABC News)

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