A woman's torso with a sutured surgical incision in the abdomen with two tubes coming from the top and bottom of the incision

Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC) & Ovarian Cancer Treatment

Last updated: September 2022

Getting a diagnosis of ovarian cancer can be scary, shocking, and a life-altering experience. Facing ovarian cancer treatment options can be overwhelming. Gathering information about your diagnosis and treatment options will help you make the best decisions for yourself.

Treatment for ovarian cancer can be complex. However, many potential therapies are available. Options include:1

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Targeted therapy

Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) is a fairly new treatment for ovarian cancer. HIPEC has been shown to be effective in reducing the chance of this cancer coming back in some people.2

What is chemotherapy (chemo)?

Chemo is a type of treatment that uses drugs to combat cancer. Usually, chemo is systemic. This means it enters your blood and goes to all organs in your body. Chemo drugs are often given through the veins (IV) or by mouth. Sometimes, doctors can deliver chemo in other ways.3Intraperitoneal (IP) chemo is injected through a small tube directly into your abdomen. Your peritoneal space is the area of your belly between the muscles and organs. There is a small amount of fluid between the peritoneal lining and the organs in your belly. Cancers that spread to this lining are often hard to treat using traditional chemo. Ovarian cancer can sometimes spread to this lining. IP chemo can help target the cancer cells there.4

What is HIPEC surgery?

HIPEC surgery combines both surgery and IP chemo. HIPEC surgery has 2 stages:5

Surgery

While under anesthesia, your surgeon will make a long incision on your abdomen. They will look for visible tumors and remove them. This is known as cytoreductive surgery (CRS). The type and amount of surgery will be based on the tumor size in your abdomen.5

HIPEC procedure

Your surgeon will fill your belly with a heated chemo solution during the second stage. The fluid is about the temperature of a warm bath. The chemo circulates in your belly for about 90 minutes, then is washed out.5,6

Advantages of HIPEC

Because standard chemo is usually delivered through the whole body, side effects occur. Traditional chemo can cause cell and nerve damage throughout the body. Delivering HIPEC directly to the belly has advantages, like:7

  • Single treatment compared to several treatments.
  • Up to 90 percent of the drug stays in the belly. This reduces the toxic side effects in the body.
  • Allows for a more intense dose of chemo.

Can I have HIPEC surgery?

As with all surgeries, HIPEC may not be right for everyone. Some factors will be considered, including:2

  • Where cancer started in your body
  • The severity or spread of your cancer
  • Your overall health to undergo the surgery

Things to know about HIPEC surgery

The surgery involves a large, open incision from the bottom of your breast bone (sternum) to your hips (pubic bone). Your doctor and nurses will work together to manage your pain after the surgery.5

If you have nausea, your doctor can give you medicine to help. Gradually going from liquids to solids will help you gain the nutrition your body will need for recovery. Losing your appetite after surgery is common. Eating small, frequent meals can help keep your body fueled. Many people need to have IV nutrition for the first few days following surgery.5,7

All major surgeries have risks of bleeding, infection, and anesthesia risks. Some people have died.5

Plan on staying at the hospital for at least a week, sometimes more. Depending on your health before your surgery and any complications from the surgery, you may need to stay longer.5

Your cancer care experts will work with you to decide if HIPEC surgery is the right treatment for you.

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