Dina Cardinale thought she had appendicitis when she went to see her local doctor. She was young and in good health, so she wasn’t expecting to be diagnosed with a rare form of advanced cancer.
“The type of cancer I had was not your typical kind of tumor. It was more like a jelly,” Dina says. “A great way it was described to me was if a jar of jelly fell on a cement floor, how would you clean it up? There’s only so much you can grab up and then you’d have to wash the rest away.”
Dina overcame her cancer with the aid of Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC), a highly-concentrated, heated chemotherapy treatment used to combat difficult-to-treat cancers that have spread to the lining of the abdominal cavity from other types of cancer.
“Basically, the abdomen has a thin membrane lining, similar to a trash bag inside of a barrel,” says Dr. Rod Flynn, the surgical oncologist who treated Dina. “Unfortunately that lining doesn’t have a great blood supply, so intravenous chemotherapy doesn’t work so well.”
HIPEC overcomes this limitation with a onetime treatment that bathes the abdominal cavity with heated chemotherapy fluid. Performed at the end of the patient’s cancer surgery, this process eliminates floating microscopic cancer cells after visible tumors have been removed.
“The heat is very important,” Dr. Flynn says. “Heat alone can kill cancer cells when applied, but the heated solution also allows the chemotherapy to work better. It’s kind of like a ‘one-two punch'."
Our program with Dr. Flynn is one of the few in the nation to offer HIPEC. “A majority of patients that need this procedure don’t even know it exists, and unfortunately in a lot of cases their doctors don’t know as well,” Dr. Flynn says.
Dina met Dr. Flynn while seeking opinions about her condition, which her physicians couldn’t explain. He concluded she was an ideal candidate for HIPEC. “Dina can live decades without any problems after having HIPEC. There’s no intravenous chemotherapy or anything else that helps that particular subset of patients.”
“Knowing that would be the most effective way, there was really no other question,” Dina says. “It worked, because here I am a year later, and all is good.”
According to Dr. Flynn, successes like Dina's are most likely when patients are evaluated for HIPEC early, preferably as soon as their cancer is diagnosed. “It’s important to get the word out so that patients and physicians alike understand there is hope for these patients,” he says. “These are rare cancers, but for us they’re routine, so they need to come as early as possible.”
HIPEC is just one way we are beating cancer through precision medicine, which is care tailored to each person and their condition. The program offers physicians specialized in treating specific types of cancer, genetic testing to identify the most effective therapy for each individual and ground-breaking, targeted treatments to reduce treatment time and improve outcomes.
Click to learn more about how HIPEC can help you or check out 5 Reasons to Choose HIPEC Treatment for Advanced Abdominal Cancer and watch a video of Dina telling her story.