Intraperitoneal chemotherapy, also called IP chemotherapy, is the delivery of chemotherapy medications directly into the abdominal cavity to kill cancer cells that may have disseminated to the abdomen. There are several ways that this treatment can be delivered and it may be combined with intravenous chemotherapy for maximum effect. For patients who are a candidate for this treatment, it is important to discuss the risks and benefits carefully with a doctor before making a decision about cancer treatment.
It is recommended that this procedure be done as close to the time of a cancer surgery as possible. Delivering chemotherapy before scars and adhesions form can ensure that it reaches every part of the abdomen. Patients who may benefit from intraperitoneal chemotherapy can include people with ovarian cancer, individuals with widely disseminated cancers in their abdomens, and individuals with cancer cells present in their abdominal fluids. The chemotherapy ensures that cancer cells a surgeon doesn't see can still be treated.
One method for intraperitoneal chemotherapy involves bathing the patient's abdomen in chemotherapy drugs while the patient is on the operating table. Some treatment teams will heat the medication in the belief that the heat increases its effectiveness. The medications are thoroughly swirled through the abdomen to ensure they are distributed across as many cancer cells as possible before being pumped out so that the patient can be closed up.
Another delivery method uses a catheter to pump chemotherapy through the abdomen. This treatment can be used for more extended delivery of chemotherapy drugs that may be repeated several times after surgery. Because the abdomen is lined with tough tissues that limit absorption into the bloodstream, the chemotherapy medications can be highly concentrated, unlike intravenous chemotherapy, which must be diluted to avoid damaging the blood vessels and causing complications for the patient.
Intraperitoneal chemotherapy is a topic of debate. Some studies suggest that it can increase life expectancy for people with certain types of cancers. Others have linked it with severe complications and risks. Because more information is being uncovered all the time, it is important for patients to work with oncologists who have access to the latest data. If intraperitoneal chemotherapy is recommended for a patient, it is advisable to ask about potential risks and complications, life expectancy, and other forms of treatment that may be available. Cancer treatment is ultimately a personal choice for the patient and there are a number of things to consider.