Hyperthermia Therapy and Cancer
Hyperthermia, translating to “excess or high heat” is the use of temperature in stimulating the body’s natural healing mechanisms. When our body is infected with bacteria or viruses, it will naturally raise its core temperature to activate and mobilize the immune system to deal with the invading pathogen.
Hyperthermia treatment is a medical treatment that involves heating up the body’s tissues to help treat various diseases and conditions.
What Is Hyperthermia
Hyperthermia is defined as having a body temperature higher than normal. Severe hyperthermia is when your body temperature reaches above 40 degrees C, this can be life threatening. Normally your body controls your body temperature through sweating, this will bring your body temperature down. In relation to cancer, hyperthermia is a type of cancer treatment whereby certain parts of the body are heated up to temperatures of up to 50 degrees C.
Applying heat to the body as a means of treating disease has been around for hundreds of years, for centuries humans have benefited from sweating from Turkish baths to modern saunas. Back in 1891 Dr. William Coley published a paper on how inducing a fever in the body can stimulate an immune response which can cause cancer remission.
Hyperthermia and Cancer
Research has shown that high temperatures can kill and damage cancer cells, usually with minimal injury to normal cells. By killing cancer cells and damaging cancer cell proteins, hyperthermia may shrink tumors. Numerous clinical trials have studied hyperthermia in combination with radiation and chemotherapy. The studies have focused on many types of cancer, including sarcoma, melanoma, head and neck cancers. Many of these studies have shown significant reduction in tumor size when hyperthermia is combined with other treatments. Not all these treatments have shown an increase in survival, it other factors need to be taken into account like diet, lifestyle, stress and supplement regime.
There are two main types of hyperthermia application, local and whole body hyperthermia. In local Hyperthermia heat is applied to a small area, typically where the tumor site is. Different types of energy may be applied such as the use of external applicators positioned around or near the appropriate region to focuse energy on the tumor to raise its temperature.
Whole body hyperthermia is used to treat metastatic cancer that has spread throughout the body, this can be accomplished through several techniques that raise the body temperature to 45-50 degrees C using thermal chambers or hot water blankets.
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- Hildebrandt B, Wust P, Ahlers O, et al. The cellular and molecular basis of hyperthermia. Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology 2002;43(1):33–56.
- Wust P, Hildebrandt B, Sreenivasa G, et al. Hyperthermia in combined treatment of cancer. The Lancet Oncology 2002; 3(8):487–49