PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There is new hope for women with advanced ovarian cancer in the form of a bath.
Ovarian cancer is often deadly because there are no early stage symptoms, so when it’s finally diagnosed it’s more advanced.
Furthermore, treatment options have been limited but new research says a chemo bath can improve survival.
When Isabel Navas was first diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer, doctors said it was time to get her affairs in order.
“Your world comes crashing down within a second,” said Isabel’s son Marcos.
The ovarian cancer was devastating news, not just for the 77-year-old Isabel, but also her tight-knit family.
It all started, she says, with a very bloated stomach.
“I never think it was cancer because I never have pain,” Isabel said.
Isabel had a full hysterectomy and started chemotherapy, but just two weeks later, doctors told her the cancer had spread to on top of her bladder.
Isabel’s doctors said they were were out of options, so Isabel decided to try a fairly experimental treatment known as a “chemo bath.”
“It involves two components, one is surgery where you have to remove all the visible cancer and the second part is the installation of high temperature chemotherapy into the abdominal wall cavity,” Dr. Steve Sung Kwon, a gynecologist, explained.
Studies show cancer cells can’t withstand heat and pouring hot chemotherapy liquid on top of the tumors can be more effective than delivering it through the bloodstream.
The procedure has been successful in treating a range of cancers that have spread to the abdomen.
Isabel is just one of the patients to enjoy its success.
“All of these patients are now cancer free, which is so wonderful,” said Dr. Sharyn Lewin, a gynecologist.
But not everyone is a candidate. The procedure is intense and can last up to 12 hours.
Isabel’s speedy recovery has her dancing with a new nickname.
“They call her the miracle lady.”
Doctors say heating the chemo solution can improve absorption and helps destroy any microscopic cancer cells that might remain after surgery. But there’s a greater risk of side effects, such as abdominal pain and numbness in the hands and feet. Plus, not all women can tolerate this high concentration of cancer-killing drugs.