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Hyperthermia for treating cancer

Hyperthermia uses heat to damage and kill cancer cells without harming normal cells.

It may be used for:

Hyperthermia is almost always used together with radiation or chemotherapy. There are different types of hyperthermia. Some types can destroy tumors without surgery. Other types help radiation or chemotherapy work better.

Only a few cancer centers in the United States offer this treatment. It is being studied in clinical trials.

Types of Cancer

Hyperthermia is being studied to treat many types of cancer:

Local Hyperthermia

This type of hyperthermia delivers very high heat to a small area of cells or a tumor. Local hyperthermia can treat cancer without surgery.

Different forms of energy may be used, including:

Heat may be delivered using:

Regional Hyperthermia

This type of hyperthermia uses low heat on larger areas, such as an organ, limb, or a hollow space inside the body.

Heat may be delivered using these methods:

Whole Body Hyperthermia

This treatment raises a person's body temperature as though they have a fever. This helps chemotherapy work better to treat cancer that has spread (metastasized). Blankets, warm water, or a heated chamber are used to warm the person's body. During this therapy, people sometimes get medicines to make them calm and sleepy.

Side effects

During hyperthermia treatments, some tissues may get very hot. This can cause:

Other possible side effects include:

Whole-body hyperthermia can cause:

In rare cases, it can harm the heart or blood vessels.


American Cancer Society website. Hyperthermia to treat cancer. Updated May 3, 2016. Accessed April 20, 2024.

Feng M, Matuszak MM, Ramirez E, Fraass BA. Intensity-modulated and image-guided radiotherapy. In: Tepper JE, Foote RL, Michalski JM, eds. Gunderson & Tepper's Clinical Radiation Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 21.

National Cancer Institute website. Hyperthermia to treat cancer. Updated June 17, 2021. Accessed April 20, 2024.

Vane M, Giuliano AE. Ablative techniques in the treatment of benign and malignant breast disease. In: Cameron JL, Cameron AM, eds. Current Surgical Therapy. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:717-808.


Review Date: 12/31/2023  

Reviewed By: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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