Hyperthermia Therapy

What is hyperthermia?

Hyperthermia involves heating tumors to mildly elevated temperatures. This heating has two benefits: it kills a portion of the cancer cells and makes those that survive more susceptible to radiation therapy. Hyperthermia may be a local, regional or whole-body treatment, depending on the extent of the cancer.

Because most centers don’t offer hyperthermia therapy, the fact that the Department of Radiation Oncology at Washington University continues to offer this important treatment further sets us apart from other cancer centers in the Midwest. We have one of the longest standing hyperthermia programs in the nation, and have recently invested in new technologies to heat deeper tumors.

How is hyperthermia given?

Hyperthermia may be administered with ultrasound, radiofrequency or microwaves. Often, the radiation oncologist will need to place a temperature monitor inside the tumor to make sure it’s heated to the target temperature for the appropriate duration. Once the target temperature is reached, the tumor is maintained at that temperature for approximately 15 minutes.

Who should consider hyperthermia?

Hyperthermia may be an effective treatment for patients who can’t undergo surgery or whose tumors are too hard to reach with surgery. It may be used to treat breast cancers that have recurred on the chest wall following prior surgery or other superficial cancers that haven’t responded to surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.