Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) combines chemo, surgery to treat rare cancers

More localized treatment can mean fewer side effects, but it is still major surgery.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A very specialized procedure is targeting some rare cancers. It's called HIPEC and it's a very specific type of chemotherapy done in tandem with surgery.

In early 2019, 49-year-old Trela Abad was experiencing chronic urinary tract infections, so she went for further testing.

"He did the CT scan and realized, oops, we have a problem," she said.

Cancer had taken over her abdomen.

"The only thing that it really hadn't touched at the time was my liver," she says.

Abad was immediately referred to Dr. Sanjay Reddy at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

"He said we really need to do a HIPEC because you have low-grade mucinous neoplasm," she said.

"HIPEC is a procedure that utilizes not only surgical expertise and technique but also chemotherapy. And it's designed to really fight cancer cells that are contained or localized within the abdominal cavity," said Dr. Reddy, who is a surgical oncologist.

The procedure is highly specialized and complex.

"It can allow better penetration of the chemo," explained Dr. Stephanie Greco, who is also a surgical oncologist. "It's also killing normal rapidly dividing cells in addition to the tumor."

More localized treatment can mean fewer side effects, but it is still major surgery.

"They're in the hospital about 10 days on average," said Dr. Greco.

Both Dr. Reddy and Dr. Greco agree where you get your cancer care is crucial, and delaying treatment a few weeks while you search isn't going to necessarily hurt your outcome.

"I think that it's important for patients to understand that you know months matter, weeks don't," said Dr. Reddy.

As for Abad, her prognosis is good.

"There's always that chance it could come back and HIPEC, my understanding is a one and done. So there'll be, you know if it comes back I'll have to do something else. But you know I'm not concerned, I'm not concerned," she said.

The doctors reiterate that every patient is different and everyone's case is thoroughly reviewed by a team.
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