Dena Svoboda, 56, never expected a bad case of acid reflux would turn out to be cancer. “I thought it was a gallbladder issue, but it wasn’t,” said Dena, of Sagamore Hills, Ohio. “It ended up being a 25-pound tumor.”
Dena was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and had surgery at Cleveland Clinic to remove the tumor, followed by chemotherapy. But just over a year later, the cancer returned.
Cleveland Clinic doctors treated Dena using an innovative procedure known as a “chemo bath.”
Once ovarian cancer returns, the prognosis usually isn’t good, with many patients living only about another year, said Dana’s physician, Robert DeBernardo, M.D., a gynecologic oncologist and Director of the Peritoneal Surface Malignancy Program at Cleveland Clinic.
But nearly four years later, Dena has defied the odds — thanks to a novel treatment during her second surgery called a “chemo bath,” which research has shown helps women with advanced ovarian cancer live longer, with a better quality of life.
During an 8.5-hour operation, a surgical team led by Dr. DeBernardo removed the cancer that had spread to Dena’s appendix, gallbladder and bowels. And then, it was time for her chemo bath –officially called hyperthermic (or heated) intraoperative peritoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) .
“Once the cancer is out, we insert tubes in the abdomen, close the incision, and circulate chemotherapy directly for up to 90 minutes,” Dr. DeBernardo said. “Studies show that patients who receive this treatment are doing better.”