In honor of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, today we’re taking a look at the disease and one of the innovative treatments available for it. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), one in 20 people are at risk for developing colorectal cancer. It’s the third most common cancer in the United States. ACS estimates this year alone, 96,830 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer and 40,000 with rectal cancer (the term “colorectal” is used to refer to both cancers).
At our hospitals, our surgical oncology team uses hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) for select patients, a highly concentrated, heated chemotherapy that’s delivered directly to the abdomen during surgery. The procedure is performed immediately following surgery to remove visible tumors from the abdomen, also known as cytoreductive surgery. The goal of HIPEC is to penetrate and destroy undetectable cancer cells that remain in the abdomen after surgery.
Dr. Jesus Esquivel, Medical Director, International Oncology Initiatives and National Director for HIPEC Research for CTCA, explains, “Not only do we remove the tumor with the surgical procedure, but we also target the cancer cells we cannot see and we know are present—probably millions of cells—at the time of the surgery.”
HIPEC is more commonly a treatment option for colon cancer than rectal cancer. It is also used to treat some cancers of the appendix, peritoneum, ovaries and stomach.
Dr. Esquivel says stage IV colorectal cancer patients may be candidates for HIPEC if they have a wide range of tumor in the abdomen (carcinomatosis) and different tissue structures (histologies) of colorectal cancer, some of which are more aggressive than others.
Patients with colorectal cancer typically receive traditional, systemic chemotherapy before and after the HIPEC procedure. Dr. Esquivel believes integrative oncology services like nutrition therapy and pain management can help patients have a better quality of life as they recover from the surgery.
About 100 hospitals in the U.S. currently perform HIPEC for colorectal cancer.
To learn more about HIPEC, watch our video Q&A with Dr. Esquivel.