Hyperthermia Treatment for Breast Cancers

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and Renjith Krishnan

Image source: freedigitalphotos.net and Renjith Krishnan

I’ve been working with some women who were receiving hyperthermia treatment for breast cancer and they did very well with the treatments. I’ve not tried it myself, but everything I’ve heard about it, as well as the research on it, sounds promising.

Hyperthermia for cancer treatment is well explained in an article from the National Cancer Institute. [1]

Hyperthermia is the heating of body tissues (usually a tumor) to high temperatures (up to 113°F) to damage and kill cancer cells.

Hyperthermia is (at present) not considered a stand-alone treatment. It is almost always used in combination with other forms of cancer therapy, such as radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy.

Studies show that adding hyperthermia to pre-operative chemotherapy and radiotherapy increases a patient’s response rate – more so than with chemotherapy or radiotherapy alone.

Hyperthermia and Radiotherapy May Make A Powerful Combination

Scientists are discovering that hyperthermia may make some cancer cells more sensitive to radiation and that’s why the two are generally used together – they are given within an hour of each other.

According to a 2011 American review of research studies on hyperthermia for breast cancer [2] , hyperthermia has been “quite effective” for the treatment of chest wall recurrences of breast cancer.  This is quite an extensive article on hyperthermia for women with locally advanced breast cancer (stage IIB-IIIC) and it’s definitely worth reading.

2019 update: A 2019 European study [3] (where hyperthermia is much more widely used for breast cancer) investigated the combination of hyperthermia and radiation in 156 women with recurrent breast cancer. They were divided into two groups:

Group A received 8 treatments of 4 GY radiation (GY being a unit of ionizing radiation) and once weekly treatments of hyperthermia.

Group B received 12 treatments of 3 GY radiation and twice weekly treatments of hyperthermia.

The 5-year survival of women in group A was 13 percent less than group B, and they also had more than twice the levels of toxicity. This would suggest that lower levels of radiation plus more hyperthermia treatments equalled a much better outcome.

Hyperthermia and Chemotherapy – Another Powerful Combination

In addition to the research mentioned above, a 2013 Chinese study [4] found that short-term hyperthermia promoted the cancer suppressive effects of the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel.

Be sure to also read the study at reference #2 (below) to see how chemotherapy is being utilized in unison with hyperthermia in other studies.

Possible Side Effects of Hyperthermia

There can be some side effects associated with heating body tissues but they are minimal, usually small burns, blisters, discomfort, or pain – all of which are quite manageable and temporary.

The only complaints I hear relate mainly to sheer and utter boredom during the therapy. The reason for this is that your body goes inside a chamber for some lengthy period of time – your head is outside of the chamber but your body is inside. So that’s good for people who don’t like to be in enclosed spaces, but it does require a high degree of patience while the tissues heat to the desired temperature. One client of mine used my meditation series to stay sane while she waited out the time!

The Down-Side

There is a down-side, but only as it relates to the inability of many patients to access this form of therapy.  The study referenced at #1 stated: “The lack of widespread access to institutions with the experience to perform hyperthermia is a critical barrier to such trials and needs to be addressed.” 

If hyperthermia interests you, ask your oncologist about it.  Remember the old adage “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”.  If more patients start asking for this type of therapy, we improve our chances of getting more facilities offering it.

The Bicher Cancer Institute in Los Angeles utilizes hyperthermia – check out their interesting You Tube video discussing it.  I respected Dr Bicher’s strong suggestion that even after treatment a woman must be vigilant and have quarterly exams.

References:

[1] Article: Hyperthermia in Cancer Treatment – https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/types/surgery/hyperthermia-fact-sheet

[2] Hyperthermia For Locally Advanced Breast Cancer — https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2949291/

[3] Impact of Technique and Schedule of Reirradiation Plus Hyperthermia on Outcome after Surgery for Patients with Recurrent Breast Cancer – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31195763

[4] Short-term hyperthermia promotes the sensitivity of MCF-7 human breast cancer cells to paclitaxel – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23229357

I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

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