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Rare Cancers: Why Getting a Second Opinion is a Good Idea

Seeking a second opinion is especially important for patients diagnosed with a rare type of cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute, rare cancers are those that affect fewer than 40,000 people per year in the U.S. As a group, they make up slightly more than a quarter of all cancers and account for 25% of all cancer deaths in the U.S.

Rare cancers are often more challenging to treat than cancers that occur more frequently, and not as many doctors have experience diagnosing or treating them. The fact that they’re less common also makes them harder to study, so fewer therapies are available overall.

Getting a second opinion for a rare cancer at a large comprehensive cancer center gives patients access to a multidisciplinary team of specialists, including those who may have seen the cancer before and have experience treating it.

Cancer centers can also offer cutting-edge treatments and clinical trials for rare cancers that might not be accessible elsewhere.

“If you have a rare disease, you want to go to a specialized center that has all the possible resources available to treat it,” said Stephanie Greco, MD, a surgical oncologist at Fox Chase. 

HIPEC: A Specialized Treatment for Some Rare Cancers

Appendiceal cancer (cancer of the appendix) and peritoneal mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the abdomen, which is known as the peritoneum) are two rare types of cancer that are not seen often by physicians.

While these cancers can be treated with traditional chemotherapy, a more effective option for some cases is hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy, or HIPEC.

HIPEC involves two parts. First, a surgeon attempts to remove all visible portions of cancer within a patient’s abdomen. Then, a special form of targeted, heated chemotherapy is applied directly to the abdominal cavity. The heated chemo can be more effective than traditional chemo at killing cancer cells.

HIPEC is a unique therapy that aims to destroy even microscopic cancer cells and help prevent cancer recurrence, but it’s not a commonly offered treatment.

“HIPEC is only done at specialized centers by surgeons who have particular expertise in that area,” Greco said.

In fact, Fox Chase is among only a handful of centers performing HIPEC in the Philadelphia region.

Expert Care for Your Rare Cancer

At Fox Chase, our specialists offer the latest treatments for rare cancers and clinical trial options not available at other hospitals.

If you or a loved one has a rare cancer and would like to get a second opinion with the experts at Fox Chase, you can make an appointment online or call
888-FOX-CHASE (888-369-2427).