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Intraperitoneal chemotherapy

Intraperitoneal chemotherapy is a treatment sometimes used for ovarian cancer, which often spreads into the abdominal cavity. This chemotherapy technique delivers chemotherapy drugs directly into the abdominal cavity through a catheter (thin tube).

The catheter used for intraperitoneal chemotherapy may be placed during staging surgery. If it is not inserted at that time, it may be placed with a laparoscopy procedure. The catheter may be connected to a port, which is a small, quarter-sized disc that sits just under the skin and connects to a large vein. Chemotherapy medicines are administered through a special needle that fits into the port. Blood may also be drawn through the port, saving a patient multiple needle sticks.

Intraperitoneal chemotherapy directly targets cancer cells in the abdomen, reducing drug exposure to healthy tissues. Intraperitoneal chemotherapy provides a concentrated dose of drugs to the cancer cells in the abdominal cavity. The chemotherapy is also absorbed into the bloodstream, reaching cancer cells outside the abdomen. Higher doses of chemotherapy drugs may be administered intraperitoneally, or directly into a body cavity, instead of intravenously, or into a vein.

Intraperitoneal chemotherapy may be a treatment option for women with ovarian cancer that has spread inside the abdomen. Candidates for intraperitoneal chemotherapy typically cannot have a large amount of scar tissue inside the abdomen because it may prevent the medication from reaching the necessary areas. Women must also have normal kidney function and be in good overall health to be considered for the treatment.

Another form of this treatment is called hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), which circulates heated chemotherapy drugs throughout the abdomen during surgery. HIPEC is performed in the operating room during a surgery to debulk a tumor. The chemotherapy in this procedure is first warmed and then infused directly into the intraperitoneal cavity.

Managing side effects

Intraperitoneal chemotherapy may cause more side effects than regular chemotherapy, including abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. These and other cancer-related side effects may be managed with the help of supportive care therapies, such as nutrition therapy, naturopathic medicine and mind-body therapy. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), each patient has an integrative, multidisciplinary care team working on his or her behalf to help address these issues while striving to improve quality of life.