Intraperitoneal (IP) Therapy for Cancer

Intraperitoneal (IP) therapy is a treatment for cancer in the abdomen (belly). Chemotherapy (chemo) is put directly into the abdomen. Chemo is medication 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

View of a torso showing a catheter entering the body through the abdomen.

Chemo is dripped through a tube into the peritoneal space. This is the space between the muscles and organs in the abdomen. The chemo stays inside the space for a few days. It comes into contact with the tissues inside your abdomen. This lets the chemo directly affect the cancer cells. This kills cancer cells in the abdomen and helps shrink tumors there.

Getting a Peritoneal Port

Before receiving IP therapy, a peritoneal port needs to be placed. This 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 the port. The procedure to put in a port takes about 1-2 hours. It is done 2-14 days before IP treatment is given.

Having IP Therapy

You lie down on a table. An IV line is put into a vein in your arm or hand. This line supplies fluids and medications. A topical anesthetic is put on your port site. A special needle with a tube attached is put into your port. Chemo is dripped through the tube into the port and goes into your abdomen. You may feel some cramping in your abdomen while the chemo is dripped in. You will be asked to move from side to side to make sure the fluid spreads throughout your abdomen. Receiving the chemo can take about 2-4 hours. The chemo 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 abdomen, you will have a feeling of 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 medications 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:   

  • Fatigue (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 health care provider can tell you more about the side effects you might expect and how to manage them.


Call the Doctor 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 fatigue 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 doctor

Checking Your Progress

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

Risks and Possible Complications of IP Therapy Include:

  • Infection

  • Failure to slow growth of or kill cancer cells

  • Damage to healthy tissue and organs

  • Infertility

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