Hyperthermia is a procedure in which body tissue is exposed to high temperatures (up to 106 F), is used in the treatment of cancer. Scientists think that heat may help shrink tumors by damaging cells or depriving them of substances they need to live. They are studying local, regional, and whole-body hyperthermia, using external and internal heating devices.
Local hyperthermia refers to heat that is applied to a very small area, such as a tumor. The area may be heated externally with high-frequency waves aimed at a tumor from a device outside the body. To achieve internal heating, one of several types of sterile probes may be used, including thin, heated wires or hollow tubes filled with warm water; implanted microwave antennae; and radiofrequency electrodes.
In regional hyperthermia, an organ or a limb is heated. Magnets and devices that produce high energy are placed over the region to be heated. In another approach, called perfusion, some of the patient's blood is removed, heated, and then pumped (perfused) into the region that is to be heated internally.
Whole-body heating is used to treat metastatic cancer that has spread throughout the body. It can be accomplished using warm-water blankets, hot wax, inductive coils (like those in electric blankets), or thermal chambers (similar to large incubators).
Hyperthermia does not cause any marked complications. Heat applied directly to the skin, however, can cause discomfort or even significant local pain in about half the patients treated. It can also cause blisters, which generally heal rapidly. Less commonly, it can cause burns.
Cancer treatment by intracellular hyperthermia
A treatment of cancer by the application of chemical reactions intracellularly capable of the intracellular generation of heat so as to induce selective thermal death of cancer cells in living tissue. Metabolizable minute particles of a size less than one micron are intravenously injected into the patient and absorbed by the cancer cells. The oxygen level of the patient's blood is then increased. The rate of intracellular chemical reaction in the cancer cells due at least in part to the intracellular presence of these minute particles is thereby increased and intracellular heat generated. The oxygen level is increased until the intracellular temperature has increased at least 8.0 degrees Centigrade but not more than 9.5 degrees Centigrade thereby selectively killing the cancer cells without damaging the normal cells.
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