Hyperthermia Radiation Therapy at John Stoddard Cancer Center
UnityPoint Health - John Stoddard Cancer Center

Hyperthermia Therapy

Hyperthermia is a therapy used to heat tumors. Research has shown that in some tumors, heat can damage cancer cells and increase the effect of radiation therapy. 

How Does Hyperthermia Therapy Work?

Using focused microwave energy, the tumor is heated to approximately 108°F. Performed superficially or via interstitial probes, heat can damage cancer cells at levels that are usually safe for normal cells, and can be used to attack cancer in four major ways:

  • Heat damages or weakens the cells of the tumor.
  • Heat increases blood flow through the weakened tumor, which can allow radiation therapies to permeate the tumor, not just attack it from the outside.
  • Increased blood flow raises oxygen levels in tumors so that the cancer can be more effectively treated by radiation therapy.
  • When the body senses fever it can stimulate the natural immune system. For these reasons, hyperthermia is usually used in combination with radiation therapy.

Hyperthermia treatments are typically given several times a week either before or after radiation therapy. Each treatment session lasts for approximately one hour. This type of treatment has shown to be most effective in treating some tumors that are recurrent or progressive despite conventional therapy. Hyperthermia can potentially be used to treat cancers which invade the skin or cancers which lie close to of the surface of the skin. These can include recurrent chest wall cancer, recurrent head and neck cancer, recurrent melanoma, and recurrent sarcoma.

Talk with your physician if you have questions about Hyperthermia Therapy.