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Intraperitoneal (IP) Therapy for Cancer

Side view of abdomen showing catheter inserted through body wall into abdominal cavity.

Intraperitoneal (IP) therapy is used to treat cancer in the abdomen and/or pelvis. This includes cancer of the ovary, and less commonly, gastrointestinal cancer. With this therapy, chemotherapy (chemo) is put directly into the belly (abdominal cavity). Chemo is medicine used to kill cancer cells. IP therapy is often done with other treatments. These may include surgery or chemo given through a vein.

How IP therapy works

Medicine is given through a tube that is placed into the space between the muscles and organs in the abdominal cavity. This is called the peritoneal space. The chemo stays inside this space for hours or days, depending on the treatment plan. Here the medicine comes into contact with the tissues. This lets the chemo directly kill the  cancer cells and helps shrink tumors there.

Before you get IP therapy, you will need to have a special port put in. This port is called a peritoneal port. It is a thin, flexible tube called a catheter. One end of the catheter is in the peritoneal space. The other end of the catheter is attached to a wider piece of tube that stays outside the body. IP therapy is injected through this port. The procedure to put in a port takes about 1 to 2 hours. It is done 2 to 14 days before IP treatment is given.

Having IP therapy

You lie down on a table. A small tube called an IV (intravenous) line is put into a vein in your arm or hand. This line gives you fluids and medicines. A topical anesthetic is put on your port site to numb the area. A special needle with a tube attached is put into your port. Then medicine is given through the tube. It goes into the port and into your belly area. You may feel some cramping while the medicine is being given. You will be asked to move from side to side to make sure the fluid spreads throughout your belly. This therapy can take about 2 to 4 hours. The medicine stays in your body for a few days, then is slowly absorbed by the body.

After IP therapy

Because IP therapy adds fluid to your belly, you may feel some pressure and bloating. It may help if you walk around after treatment, or sit upright. Wear comfortable clothing with a stretchy waistband for the next few days. As the fluid is absorbed by your body, you may need to urinate more often. You may also be told to drink a lot of fluids during this process.

Possible side effects of IP therapy

Chemo medicines are used during this treatment. So the side effects of this treatment are similar to those of chemo. Side effects will depend on the type of chemo given, but can include: 

  • Tiredness

  • Mouth sores

  • Itchy, dry skin

  • Changes in skin color

  • Hair loss

  • Changes in or loss of nails

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Loss of appetite

  • Loss of sexual desire

  • Bleeding problems

  • Easy bruising

Your healthcare provider can tell you more about the side effects you might expect and how to manage them.

Contact your healthcare provider if you have any of the following:

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Redness, swelling, or worsening pain around the port site

  • Unexplained bleeding

  • Extreme tiredness that doesn’t get better between treatments

  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or trouble breathing

  • Rapid, irregular heartbeat; chest pain

  • Dizziness, lightheadedness

  • Constant feeling of being cold

  • A cut or rash that swells, turns red, feels hot or painful, or begins to ooze

  • Any other signs or symptoms indicated by your healthcare provider

Checking your progress

During the course of your treatment, you’ll have routine follow-up visits with your healthcare provider. You may also have tests. These allow your healthcare provider to check your health and response to the treatment. After treatment ends, you and your healthcare provider will discuss your treatment results. You’ll also discuss whether you need additional cancer treatments.

These include:

  • Infection

  • Failure to slow the growth of or kill cancer cells

  • Damage to healthy tissue and organs

  • Infertility

Your healthcare provider will tell you about other risks that may apply to you.

Online Medical Reviewer: Image reviewed by StayWell medical illustration team.
Online Medical Reviewer: LoCicero, Richard, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2018
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