Hyperthermia is a therapy used to heat cancer tumors. Research shows that heat can damage or kill cancer cells in some tumors while also making radiation therapy more effective in treating some malignant tumors that reoccur or grow despite conventional therapy.
Hyperthermia works in four ways to attack the malignant tumor:
- Heat damages or weakens the cells of the tumor.
- Heat increases blood flow through the weakened tumor, which can allow radiation therapies to more thoroughly permeate the tumor.
- Increased blood flow raises oxygen levels in tumors so the cancer can be more effectively treated by radiation therapy.
- The body senses fever and can stimulate the immune system.
For these reasons, hyperthermia is usually used in combination with radiation therapy.
Hospitals around the world have been using hyperthermia as a cancer treatment for more than 30 years; the efficacy and safety of the therapy is well established.
In clinical trials, the specific hyperthermia treatment that Beaumont uses (in conjunction with radiation therapy) showed that:
- 83.7 percent of patients experienced some reduction in tumor size
- 37.4 percent of patients experienced complete reduction in the tumor
- 24.5 percent had a greater than 50 percent reduction in tumor size
Hyperthermia therapy will be delivered to you during an hour-long session, which is usually followed by radiation treatment. The frequency of the sessions is typically two times a week for a total of 10 to 12 treatments. The treatment plan is determined by your team during a consultative meeting.
During your treatment session, the following will likely occur:
- You will recline on a bed in the treatment room. You will never be alone during the treatment, as physicians, physicists and therapists work together administering the hyperthermia.
- One or two thin probes that measure temperature will be placed just beneath the surface of the skin in the area to be treated. Prior to the probe placement, an anesthetic cream will be applied to your skin; a physician will also use a small needle to inject another numbing agent.
- Temperature sensors will also be placed on the skin providing accurate measurements for heat control. Using focused microwave energy, the tumor is heated to approximately 108 degrees. You may feel a warm sensation.
- At the end of the hour-long treatment, the probes will be removed and you will attend your radiation treatment.
- Plan for a minimum of three hours for your combined hyperthermia and radiation treatment, which includes any necessary preparation.
- Your treatment progress will be continuously assessed.
Although many insurance carriers cover hyperthermia therapy for some tumors, you should always check with your physician or insurance company to make sure that your therapy will be covered.