Health Check: Treating ovarian cancer with heat

Lori Moon, of Lincoln, talks with Dr. Thomas Minor. (WJAR)

Things are heating up in the treatment of ovarian cancer.

This type of cancer is the fifth most deadly cancer, affecting one in 78 women. And has always been thought to be one of the more difficult cancers to treat and cure.

Lori Moon, of Lincoln, recently had this treatment.

"I felt like I was pregnant,” said Moon, going back to January when, she said her stomach was protruding.

She had a CT scan.

"Within an hour after that, got the results,” Moon recalled. “They told me to go to the ER because I had a blood clot that was close to my lung."

And she had something else. A very large ovarian tumor which went all the way down to her pelvis and all the way up on top of the liver and around the spleen and colon, according to her oncology surgeon, Dr. Thomas Minor of Rhode Island Hospital. Dr. Miner knew exactly how he wanted to proceed.

"It was really the perfect solution for Lori in that because her tumor wasn't one that would spread throughout the abdomen, we could do extensive surgery to remove all the tumor and then give her HIPEC which is chemo-heated chemotherapy that we give while people are asleep during their surgery," said Miner.

He had done this a couple of hundred other times, mostly for different types of cancer. But then something he read solidified his decision to go this route with Moon.

"Just about a week before her surgery a major paper came out,” said Miner of an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"It actually showed HIPEC for ovarian cancers to be superior to what we've been doing."

Which is either traditional chemotherapy before or after surgery.

"The advantage of this is we can give a higher dose. The heat of the HIPEC makes the chemo more effective, penetrates well," said Miner.

"And also the heat itself kills tumor so it's multiple ways to attack tumor at surgery."

Through 10 hours of surgery, Miner says he took out 7 to 8 liters of tumor.

"And that was just the liquid tumor that was making her abdomen so big."

After removing all the disease he could see, the heated chemo took case of what he couldn't see.

"I have a scar from here to here,” said Moon pointing from her sternum to her pelvis. "It's a big zipper."

But, two months later, she says she is healing.

“I’m getting there. Just have to be patient,” said Moon.

"We're boaters so we want to get back on the bay," said Craig Melucci, her partner of eight years.

“My big cheerleader,” beamed Moon.

Miner says applied in the right instance, this heated chemo during surgery can be a life saver. Of course, Lori will have to be watched closely over the coming years to make sure the cancer doesn't return.

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