Chemotherapy is a term that we know refers to cancer treatment, but the term intraperitoneal is perhaps one that we are less familiar with. Intraperitoneal means that which is administered via the peritoneum (lining of the abdominal cavity) and so intraperitoneal chemotherapy refers to chemo that is administered by way of the abdomen using a surgical tube.
Intraperitoneal chemotherapy is the treatment that is used mainly for the treatment of ovarian cancer, which affects about 21,000 American women each year and for other abdominal cancers. The treatment delivers the tumor fighting medication directly to the ovaries by way of the tube inserted into the abdominal cavity to prevent the cancer cells from multiplying.
This kind of chemotherapy can be effective in treating ovarian cancer is seen to increase the rates of ovarian cancer survival. Intraperitoneal chemotherapy was seen to increase survival particularly or more advanced ovarian cancers. However the treatment is not without its controversies since it can negatively impact quality of life of the ones receiving cancer treatment; and is also seen to have very significant side effects.
This sort of chemotherapy is used when surgical intervention is not possible or when surgical debulking (excision of as much cancerous material as possible) has been done. Other than ovarian cancer this kind of therapy may also be used for colorectal cancer, cancer of the appendix, desmoplastic small round cell tumor, gastric cancer and certain other conditions.
The benefits of the intraperitoneal chemotherapy are derived from the direct administration of the therapy drugs to the site of the cancer. Proponents of the procedure say that this method of administering the drugs means that 10 to 20 times more medication actually finds its way to the ovaries when compared with other methods of administration such as through the chest, arm and so on.
However the side effects of the therapy are very considerable and risks of complications are also significant; and the therapy is still considered to be of an experimental nature. The procedures are quite long in duration; lasting for as many as 8 to 10 hours and are complicated in nature, requiring a high degree of skill.
The risk of complication is high and the procedure could result in infection and there could also be subsequent malfunctioning of the installed port or catheter. Many of the same side effects that chemo itself produces will also be noted – nausea, vomiting, allergic reactions, pain, and shortness of breath, bloating, blood platelet problems and so on. The risk of fever and infection is higher with this method of administering the medication.
Intraperitoneal chemotherapy also carries with it a greater risk of toxicity and is seen to negatively impact the quality of life of the woman who undergoes the cancer treatment and it is debatable whether the possible benefits outweigh the side effects and possible complications of the treatment. It’s possible applications for treating cervical or endometrial cancer are still being investigated.
To read more about the therapy, read the frequently asked questions about intraperitoneal chemotherapy. To read about what to expect with this therapy and how the procedure is done, read about IP Chemotherapy for Ovarian Cancer.