Is Cancer Treatment Possible with Heat Therapy (Hyperthermia)?
Under normal conditions, the human body’s internal temperature is 37.6°C. Body temperature varies for different parts of the body. The average oral temperature in an adult is 37°C, while the rectal temperature and axillary temperature are 37.5°C and 36.5°C, respectively. Body temperature may deviate from the mean values by 0.3–0.6°C. Newborns and children have higher body temperatures than adults. Hyperthermia (heat therapy) is a cancer treatment method that is applied by exposing body tissues to high temperatures (39–42°C). In short, the basic principle is to heat the tumor area with radio waves. The procedure generally lasts for 30–60 minutes. It is an effective method that is applied all over the world, particularly in the USA, Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands.
Studies have shown that hyperthermia kills or damages cancerous cells, while its damage to normal cells is minimal. Hyperthermia works by killing cells or disrupting the structure of the proteins within the cell. However, hyperthermia should not be used alone but be combined with radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Hyperthermia makes cancer cells susceptible to radiotherapy or kills cells that would normally not be affected by radiotherapy. Hyperthermia also increases the effectiveness of certain chemotherapeutic agents.
The effectiveness of hyperthermia with regards to cancers of the head and neck, cervical cancer, rectal cancer, and particularly melanoma – a type of skin cancer –and sarcomas, has been investigated in many studies. Most of these studies have shown that adding hyperthermia to the treatment shrinks the tumor and increases local control. There are a wide variety of methods and equipment used for hyperthermia. Hyperthermia can be applied either locally or to the whole body, but in all cases the procedure must be performed within a few hours of radiotherapy. The effectiveness of hyperthermia treatment depends on the temperature obtained during treatment, the duration of the treatment, and the characteristics of the tumor and tissue. Due to the difference between tissues, patients might experience local burns and pain. However, tissue injury only occurs when the temperature is above 43°C. Most side effects are also temporary. Application to the whole body can cause diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. In rare cases, patients may develop cardiovascular diseases. Hyperthermia treatment cannot be used on patients with pacemakers and prostheses, impaired temperature perception, or silicone implants.