Saturday, 25 July 2020

Hyperthermia at home?

Local hyperthermia in Germany
I first started to learn about hyperthermia during my treatment in Germany in Nov/Dec 2017 (see here my blog on transurethral hyperthermia) (i). I have since then researched lots more - including speakers like Alexander Herzog (ii) and a great series of videos from Truly Heal  - some of these videos are still available on their Hyperthermia Academy website along with an excellent downloadable guide and a couple of brilliant Webinars (iii). So I’ve already shared about getting a dome infrared sauna and using that regularly (see here) (iv), in this blog I want to look at my experiences of hyperthermia at home.

There is lots online suggesting hyperthermia is one of the most effective therapies for a wide range of diseases and can be helpful with cancer. However one of the first oncologists I met said he had looked into it in a lot of detail many years ago and he was very dismissive of the approach. Certainly I have read that some cancers like acute leukaemia are contraindicated. Yet there are an estimated half a million people travelling to Germany (like me) each year to treat infectious diseases and cancers. Sadly the UK doesn’t seem to have clinics here although I can imagine that will change (do let me know if anywhere is opening in UK).

Hyperthermia has also been named by some as the fourth pillar beside the standard  treatments of chemo, radiation and surgery - see PubMed article here that concludes (v): "Hyperthermia is an important treatment modality in cancer treatment and its results are strongly supported by criteria of evidence-based medicine.”  
Dome ready for hyperthermia
It is also possibly the only agent to treat cancer that does not itself appear to be oncogenic (cancer-inducing). Dr. Clare Vernon of the Hammersmith Hospital says in The Lancet; "I think every major cancer centre should have a hyperthermia unit. Hyperthermia was used at the hospital for around 25 years, but it is not currently available for a variety of reasons, none to do with its efficacy….Hyperthermia is very effective even when other treatments have failed. It’s also relatively cheap and well tolerated."

We know that fever is a healing response that is key in infectious diseases - strangely many of us have been so indoctrinated by modern medicine that we can see fever as disease. My mum, for example, finds it particularly hard to see that creating a fever could actually be helpful - she will reach for the paracetamol while I will try and avoid the medication. Indeed a number of doctors now advise parents not to medicate immediately as fever trains the immune system to fight illness.

My understanding is that during a fever the immune system is stimulated and the growth of bacteria and viruses are made to slow down. The production of white blood cells - the main agent of the immune system - are massively increased and flooded into the blood stream; more antibodies and more of the anti-viral cancer-fighting protein, interferon. As the immune system is activated heat shock proteins are created on the surface of malignant cells. The cancer cells become visible to the flood of immune cells who can then target them. While the increased blood flow and oxygenation all helps to detoxify the body.

In some Clinics, Viral therapy is used where patients are infected with flu. Indeed back in 1891 Memorial Sloan-Kettering Doctor William Coley famoulsy published a paper on how inducing a fever in the body of a cancer patient might stimulate the immune response and cause cancer remission. This again is not what I had, but basically it is still used in some places where over four days the body is brought to a natural fever - not exactly a scientific approach but it seems some have had very good results. 
Hyperthermia also has a longer heritage than even Coley - Egyptians are known to use heat treatments and Parminides, a Greek Physician in 500BC said "Give me a chance to create a fever, and I will cure any disease". Many of the Clinics also offer Whole Body Hyperthermia which can be done under anaesthetic/sedation - again this is not what I had.

Using Hyperthermia with other treatments

My oncologist may have been partly right as the evidence of success of Hyperthermia on its own is not huge, but it does show successes when used with other treatments. For example in Germany I talked to people who were being treated with Hyperthermia to increase white blood cell count after their chemo therapy; some clinics can reduce the chemo agent by 40% and still have better effects if combined with fever. However again research is lacking and almost none when looking at home treatment hyperthermia that I will come to in a moment.

We know that tumours tend to have oxygen-deprived (hypoxic) cells which are resistant to radiation, but they are sensitive to heat. So hyperthermia can also be useful when treating cancers with radiation. Radiation kills the oxygenated cells and the hyperthermia acts on the inner low oxygen cells making them more susceptible to radiation knocking them out. When I was having radiation treatment I considered hyperthermia at home but felt unable to add it into my protocol for a number of reasons including not feeling up to it (vi).

However I have now read that there are some extraordinary results with hyperthermia. Chris Woollams in a Canceractive article quotes the six year research from March 2000 in The Lancet looking at the use of hyperthermia and radiation compared with radiation treatment alone. He writes (vii): "Although the study showed promise for the treatment of advanced cervical, bladder and colorectal cancer, the most remarkable results were obtained with advanced cervical cancer. Complete disappearance of the tumour was obtained in 83% of those who received the combined treatment, compared to 57% who were treated with radiation alone. In addition, the three-year survival rate for those who received the combined treatments nearly doubled (improved 89%), compared with those who just received radiation. The study was well-received in the Netherlands where it was conducted, and the treatment has received government approval. The other advantage noted in the report was the fact that there was none of the nausea often experienced with radiation, and hospitalisation was not required”. 

Chris Woollams quotes other research showing the significant impact of hyperthermia on cancers. One particular multi-paper review in the Lancet showed that response rates for chemo and hyperthermia combined are 70%. Hyperthermia alone gives a response rate of 15% and chemotherapy alone can give results of 5 - 60% depending upon the drug, while radiotherapy alone was about 35%. Why the heck is it not part of UK treatment?

It is worth noting that a lot of the research into hyperthermia shows it is effective is in a narrow temperature range of between 42°C and 45°C. Above this range, healthy cells would suffer, and below this range, cancer cells will survive - but more on temperatures in a moment....

My experience - hyperthermia at home

So home use is about immune boosting and increasing while blood cells and oxygenation. It was Marcus from Truly Heal that first introduced me to using the dome for home hyperthermia. You can see his 10 minute video describing his own experience - in conclusion "Not joyful!” I had thought he might be a bit wimpy as I can manage certain pain fairly well - but oh no this was tough....

So how to do it? Well I set up the dome with two layers of towels - yes you seriously sweat! Another rolled towel for a headrest. Turn onto maximum temperature/full power and let it warm for 5-10 mins. Dress in long sleeve T-shirt and Long Johns or long pyjamas. I also wear socks to stop feet burning and some men put a towel across their groin to protect the sensitive areas. Of course turn heat down if burning feeling....burning is not good!

Insert the thermometer in the rectum - yes this is where you will get the most accurate measurements. Marcus recommends the iCelsius thermometer (at just under £100) which pairs with an iPhone and gives you continuous updates and a graph; apparently most other ‘cheaper’ thermometers are not accurate enough and we are talking differences of 0.3 to 0.5 degrees being very important indeed in thsi treatment. One point to bear in mind is to take care with the lead from the the thermometer to the device outside the dome; on one occasion it was between me and the mat and led to a very slight burn on me. Take care!

A pulse and oximeter is also useful to monitor your situation. I note that oxygen levels can go up if you do some breathing exercises while in the dome; some recommend some of this but take care and find what works for you.

You must have a support person once you start getting beyond the normal sauna 20 mins or so. It really does get very uncomfortable as the body desperately tries to balance itself and stay around normal 37.5. Support is wonderful for iced flannels on keeping the head cool (important) and helping drink - I will get through some one and half to two litres during the whole session - using a metal straw as angle is not great for sipping from a bottle. Marcus recommends a vitamin C product but I have some questions about oral Vitamin C so have not done that. In a previous blog I note those questions raised by Jane McLelland (viii) - I still need to do some research on this aspect. Some have recommended taking a urinal bottle in so that you can go if needed without having to get out of the dome.

As noted in my previous blog re saunas this is not for everyone - do check out medical advice before embarking on this. The Truly Heal site has a list of things to consider and be wary about. 
It is also really important to not got above 39 in the first few treatments. It can be very dangerous. Indeed 38.5 might be right for the first treatment. I have now, after eight or nine treatments got to 39 when I turn it off - but that really is the limit. It often takes me around 40 mins to get to the 39 degrees - then when you switch off you want to see the body core temperature rising on its own - that is an indication of the fever kicking in. Sometimes I will put the dome on low; say the number 4 setting to maintain the temperature. As Marcus shows in the video he puts a towel in between the two dome sections to create a gap for some air to come out and even with that the body temperature rises. This is good but you also need to keep an eye on that temperature so that it doesn’t go too high; allow more air in if it is still going up too much. 

I’ve not gone above 39.6 with the fever - temperatures over 40 can be dangerous. Some have argued that it needs to be 40 plus to kill cancer cells but there are different views and Marcus argues the effects are also dependent on the causes of your cancer. For example some cancers will have a significant viral component and he argues all cancers have bacterial and viral overgrowth which will be impacted by hypertthermia. The hyperthermia is about marking the cancers so that our immune system can target them.
Marcus comments on the temperatures re the dome use for Lyme patients: "The problem is that above 42.8 you risk coagulation of proteins which is dangerous. That's why we only heat to 39.5 C and let the body do the rest. After a few treatments your body learns how to respond properly with fever and will go as high as needed. Most lyme patients easily get up to 40C or 41C.” 
He goes onto comment on the Clinic that I attended (and the Doctor who oversaw my treatment) (ix) "Dr. Douwes offers intense hyperthermia. That's a clinical therapy which requires EKG and other emergency medicine at hand. I don't suggest you try this at home. The intense hyperthermia was used in many clinics at first but slowly has reduced to only a few clinics. All others have started to do the moderate hyperthermia which we share with you on this page. The reason for this is that the results were the same or even better while being far less exhausting and expensive. Almost all clinics ran tests parallel with 50 patients on moderate and 50 in intense and the moderate group did far better. Their immune response was stronger and the healing effect was better over time. I assume the idea was to eradicate all virus in a couple of treatment and this did not work out. It’s always a long process to change the inner milieu of the body".

At about 25 mins after switching off I am often at 38.6 or so - and what is most strange, is that when the body is in a fever nearly all the discomfort goes. It is almost as if the body enjoys the rush of white blood cells? Again some say they can feel floaty which is why it is essential to have support around and ensure the dome automatically cuts out after a time. At this point I usually try and visualise white blood cells targeting the cancer and other nasties (x). 

Try and stay in the dome for a minimum of one hour total time. The temperature slowly comes down. The idea is to keep the 'fever' going for a while. Marcus suggests that at 39.2 you could get out for a shower; not too hot but not cool. I usually wait a little longer in the dome. I guess this is not an exact science?
Do take care getting up; make sure your support person is on hands many get dizzy. I often feel completely exhausted - as Marcus says in his video it is like doing a marathon (xi). Best now is wrapping up warmly and going to bed - your skin can feel prickly - I guess sign of blood flow going out into the extremities. Two hours later after a snooze, Marcus still has his temperature at 38.5 and slowly descending. Mine is usually getting back to normal. He will often then go to bed. He notes that some describe euphoria then or the next day - certainly I feel enlivened sometimes a couple of days later.

While saunas can be done every second day hyperthermia are only recommended once a week to start with then reduced to every three weeks. I did them once a month but stopped before my radiotherapy. I am partly writing this as I will be starting them again; writing the blog is a good way to refamiliarise myself with the routine. For those in late stage cancers it is recommended once a week.

I feel very fortunate to have a dome - it is worthj noting that it is key to get a proper far infrared dome - many products like some of the bio mats are not far infrared but just electric cables heating crystals. It is also worth noting concerns re EMF (Electro Magnetic Fields) that can be harmful when we are exposed to them on a regular basis. Some of the domes have gone to great lengths to cancel out the vast majority of the EMF produced. 
So I'm now set to start hyperthermias again later this week. 

(x) See my blog re David Hamilton's visualisations that I continue to use: 

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