Hyperthermia means a body temperature that is higher than normal. High body temperatures are often caused by illnesses, such as fever or heat stroke. But hyperthermia can also refer to heat treatment – the carefully controlled use of heat for medical purposes.
Fever has been too long a misunderstood and mistreated symptom. Most orthodox doctors try to combat and suppress fever. Actually fever is a constructive, health-promoting symptom, initiated and created by the body in its own effort to fight infections and other conditions of disease and to restore health. High temperature speeds up metabolism, inhibits the growth of invading virus or bacteria and accelerates the healing processes.
How can hyperthermia be used to treat cancer?
There are 2 main ways in which hyperthermia can be used:
- Very high temperatures can be used to destroy a small area of cells, such as a tumor. This is often called local hyperthermia or thermal ablation.
- The temperature of a part of the body (or even the whole body) can be raised to a higher than normal level. It isn’t hot enough to kill the cells directly, but this can allow other types of cancer treatments such as radiation therapy, immunotherapy, or chemotherapy to work better. This is known as regional hyperthermia or whole-body hyperthermia.
Cancer cells experience a build-up in heat, which leads to an inadequate supply of oxygen and a depletion of nutrients in the tumor. These deficiencies lead in turn to disturbances in the metabolic processes of dividing and maintaining cells, including the failure of the repair systems of the cells. Thus thermal cell components (i.e. those parts of the cells damaged by hyperthermia) cannot be replaced, and this can lead to the death of the cancer cells.
Furthermore, results from studies show that cancer cells form a special type of protein structure on the surface of the cells when heated to a temperature of approx. 42° C, which does not happen with healthy cells. These protein structures – also known as heat shock proteins – are recognized by the body’s immune system as foreign substances, thus enabling the immune system to destroy them.
So hyperthermia works in two ways: on the one hand by creating thermal damage and on the other hand by stimulating the body’s own immune system.
A sauna, or Finnish steam bath, is another excellent way to benefit from overheating therapy. In addition to an artificially induced fever, which a prolonged steam bath always accomplishes, the sauna bath is specifically conducive to profuse therapeutic sweating.
The normal core temperature of a normal person is 98.6°F or 37.5°C. In cancer patients, the core body temperature is about 0.5°C lower, normally hovering below 37°C. During my month's stay in the hospital in Chongqing, China, the nurses take my body temperature twice a day and most of the time the temperature readings are around 36.3°C and 36.7°C. As a result, a cancer patient cannot induce fever automatically and the hand and feet feels cold.
A study in Hamburg, Germany found that an increase in body temperature alone does not automatically induce response. In this research, the temperature of cancer patients were raised with hyperthermia therapy while another group of healthy volunteers took part in very streneous exercise to raise body temperature.Although both group have elevated body temperature, immune function increased in cancer patients but not in healthy volunteers. Elevated immune factors in the cancer patients included human growth hormone and the induction of NK cells and T cells.
So raising the body temperature by other means may not be as effective as Hyperthermia. Furthermore, it is important to maintain stable temperature for a period of time and overheating could damage other organs in the body. Doctors in using Hyperthermia therapy have equipment that constantly monitor the temperature of the patient and also ensure the patient is not dehydrated during the 4 hour treatment process.