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Hyperthermia
Also Known As:
Thermal Therapy, Thermotherapy
Summary:

Hyperthermia is the application of concentrated therapeutic heat to treat cancer. Body tissue is exposed to high temperature which can damage and kill cancer cells with minimal injury to normal tissue. There are several methods of hyperthermia including local, regional and whole body. Patients can also obtain a FAR infrared sauna for daily home use. This treatment is effective when used in combination with radiotherapy, chemotherapy as well as with almost any other anti-cancer treatment, and can assist with pain reduction. Other separately listed treatments, such as HIFU employ the same principles to weaken cancer cells.

Description:

Hyperthermia is the application of concentrated therapeutic heat which is used to damage and kill cancer cells. The tumour cells are tightly packed together often restricting circulation making it sluggish. When exposed to heat, the tumour cell’s vital nutrient supply and oxygen are cut off resulting in a collapse of the tumour’s vascular system, destroying the cancer cells. Hyperthermia is effective on its own or can increase benefits when combined with radiation therapy or chemotherapy, reducing the dosages necessary. Often this therapy can assist with pain reduction allowing for a better quality of life.

Local hyperthermia is used to treat very small areas, such as a tumour. Heat can be applied from the outside using high-frequency waves directed at the tumour. Small areas inside the body can be heated using thin wire probes, hollow tubes filled with warm water, or implanted microwave antennae and radio frequency electrodes.

Regional hyperthermia heats a part of the body such as a limb, organ or cavity. This can achieved by heating blood that has been isolated, removed, heated and pumped back into the same region in a process called perfusion. Magnets and other devices that produce high energy can be positioned over an area to be heated.

Whole-body hyperthermia is used when treating metastatic cancer that has spread throughout the body. This can be achieved by using warm water blankets, inductive coils, hot wax, thermal room or chambers to raise the body temperature. There are no known complications. Side effects may include local pain or skin discomfort. Occasionally hyperthermia can cause blisters or burns but these generally heal quickly.

History:

It is shown on Egyptian papyri that doctors in the Nile Valley around 5000 B.C, used heat as a therapy for tumours. The Greeks also recognised the benefits of heat treatment for medical purposes as the word hyperthermia comes from the Greek ‘hyper’ (to raise) and ‘therme’ (to heat).

Scientists have long recognised that cancer cells are more sensitive to heat and that they break down at high temperatures. After the Renaissance, many reports showed that there were spontaneous tumour regressions in patients suffering from influenza, smallpox, malaria and tuberculosis; where the common factor was an infectious fever around 104 degrees.

In 1984 hyperthermia was given a legal status of an approved medical procedure in the US. The principles of using heat were widely understood but the technology was not capable of directing the heat in a concentrated area. Today, controlled heating is applied with fine sensors and directional applicators using microwaves and computers.

Notes:

Hyperthermia, whilst somewhat effective on its own, is best used as a supportive treatment, combined with orthodox chemotherapy or radiotherapy, or with other alternative approaches. By combining hyperthermia with orthodox treatments, lower doses of drugs or radiation can achieve the same results as full dosages, but with lower toxicity.



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