Typically, when treating cancerous tumors, a patient may receive radiation therapy or chemotherapy. While these treatments can be beneficial in some cases, an innovative technology called Hyperthermia, may be used in conjunction with these therapies to increase their effectiveness.
Hyperthermia is used to damage and kill cancer cells. It may also make cancer cells more sensitive to the effects of radiation and certain anticancer drugs, potentially reducing the number of radiation treatments needed. There are also minimal side-effects.
Prior to this procedure, a CT scan is performed to precisely locate the tumor area. During Hyperthermia treatment, the affected area is heated superficially by the use of an applicator. The applicator is placed over the patient and may sometimes be filled with water to conform to the patient’s surface anatomy. Microwaves are used to heat the area. The body tissue is exposed to high temperatures (up to 109ºF). The high temperature is similar to the temperature in a hot tub. However, if the patient feels the temperature is too hot, a radiation tech in the room can turn it down.
As the heat travels into the body, it dilates blood vessels around the tumor, causing oxygen-carrying red blood cells to spread into the tumor. When the patient is later exposed to radiation treatment, the radiation reacts with the high levels of oxygen in the tumor, killing the tumor cells. This procedure can take up to 1 hour and is performed twice a week for the duration of radiation treatment.
Heat applied directly to the skin may cause discomfort or local pain in about half the people treated with this procedure. In rare cases, blisters may form, which generally heal rapidly.
Patients who have surface tumors with a penetration depth of 1 - 3.5 cm may qualify for this procedure. Various tumor types have shown a positive response to this treatment.