By George I. Salti, M.D.
Cancers of the abdominal cavity, like appendiceal cancer, colorectal cancer, ovarian cancer and others, can be difficult to treat with traditional methods. This is especially true if the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.
But with developments from the 1990s to present, patients with abdominal cancers now have another treatment option. It’s called HIPEC, or hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy.
Only a handful of surgeons in the Chicago area have the expertise to perform this procedure. I have been performing HIPEC since 2001.To date, I’ve performed hundreds of HIPEC surgeries and have been doing these surgeries for longer than any other Chicago-area surgeon. I’m excited to offer the hope of recovery to my patients through HIPEC.
HIPEC as an effective treatment option
Surgery hasn’t always been an option for patients with cancers that have spread to the abdomen. Historically, these patients had one option: chemotherapy. Most oncologists and surgeons thought chemotherapy could extend a patient’s lifespan by a few months or a year at most. Surgery by itself often wasn’t a good option, because if the surgeon didn’t find all of the cancerous tissue, it could grow back and continue to spread.
HIPEC, which combines surgery and heated chemotherapy, adds another layer of protection to the surgical process. We remove as much of the cancerous tissue as we can through normal surgery, and then we introduce heated chemotherapy medication into the abdomen. This is a “double-kill” option to destroy any cancer cells that have been left behind.
Anyone whose cancer has spread to the abdominal cavity should have a conversation with their oncologist about HIPEC. Not everyone is a candidate for the procedure. But it should be discussed and decided as early in the process as possible, as opposed to waiting until it might be too late.
Some doctors still don’t believe HIPEC is a viable option for treating some types of abdominal cancer, such as colorectal cancer. And, of course, we have to make sure a patient is a good candidate for the procedure. But with time, more and more oncologists have grown to accept its role in the treatment process. We get many referrals from oncologists who were skeptics of HIPEC in years past who have since come to appreciate what it can do for their patients.
The benefits of having HIPEC surgery close to home
HIPEC is a challenging procedure that not many surgical oncologists have the expertise to perform. Just like other surgeries, the more procedures a surgeon does, the better the outcomes are for patients. Our HIPEC program has been recognized by our colleagues worldwide, and I’m proud of that.
One of the benefits for Chicagoland residents of having HIPEC surgery at Edward-Elmhurst Health is the convenience. Patients don’t have to travel to academic centers or huge providers in major metropolitan areas, like downtown Chicago. Having HIPEC available here in Naperville means one less hassle for patients, who are under a lot of stress from their cancer and the pressures it puts on them and their loved ones.
Another benefit of having HIPEC here at Edward-Elmhurst Health is the personal care we provide to our patients. We’re a community hospital, and we don’t treat our patients like numbers or statistics. Each patient gets personalized care from the whole team.
It’s important for me and the care I provide to work with my patients on a one-on-one basis. I form close relationships with my patients throughout the course of their treatment and follow-up care.
How our patients help us improve HIPEC
The best way to gather solid, reliable scientific data about procedures like HIPEC is through a clinical data registry. A clinical data registry is a system researchers use to collect medical information about patients to help us refine the procedure and share expertise with other cancer specialists.
We ask each patient who has HIPEC to be a part of our HIPEC clinical data registry. For those who agree, we track them throughout the rest of their lives to gather information about their diseases and how they respond to treatment. Though we do collect patients’ names and contact information so we can monitor them for the registry, this information is kept confidential. We look at the data in terms of collective information from large groups of patients.
Current HIPEC patients benefit from the information our past patients have contributed to the data registry. And as we continue to learn more about the procedure, we constantly make adjustments or changes for the benefit of future patients.
Some of the data we track in our HIPEC clinical data registry include:
- How long the patient has had cancer
- Primary type of cancer
- Return of cancer after the HIPEC procedure
- Survival data
- Whether a patient has complications with the HIPEC procedure
HIPEC continues to grow as a potential option for patients with aggressive, difficult-to-treat abdominal cancers. Our leading experience, good outcomes and patient-centric focus make us the provider of choice for people who need cancer care.
About Dr. Salti
George I. Salti, M.D., is director of surgical oncology and associate professor of surgery at Edward-Elmhurst Health. He specializes in surgical treatment of cancers affecting the abdomen, appendix, gastrointestinal tract and many others. Learn more about Dr. Salti and how to request an appointment.