Radioembolization and Chemoembolization for Liver Cancer
Removing liver tumors with surgery is the best chance for a cure, but they are often inoperable because of the large size or location. At times, many small tumors may have spread throughout the liver making surgery ineffective.
As a result, Holy Name Medical Center’s Interventional Radiologists may use minimally invasive procedures such as radioembolization and chemoembolization to treat liver tumors.
Radioembolization cuts off the blood supply to tumors while killing malignant cells. The procedure involves using a catheter to place millions of microspheres – minute particles that emit radiation – into the blood vessels feeding the tumor. The tiny beads become trapped in the vessel, cutting off the blood supply to the tumor while emitting radiation that kills the tumor cells.
This treatment is palliative, not curative, but benefits patients by extending and improving the quality of their lives. It is effective in treating primary and metastatic liver cancers and is performed as an outpatient procedure. There are fewer side effects – mainly fatigue that lasts seven to 10 days – compared to standard cancer treatments.
Recent studies have shown that patients with colon cancer that spread to the liver and were treated with radioembolization and chemotherapy lived 20 months longer than those treated with chemotherapy alone.
- It is an outpatient procedure – no hospitalization is required.
- It is a very safe procedure and may be repeated if necessary.
- Complication rates are low, about 2 to 3 percent, and are often minor.
- It is very effective in shrinking or killing small to medium-sized tumors.
- It can be combined with other treatments.
- This treatment is successful in reducing pain and suffering
- It usually does not require general anesthesia.
Chemoembolization is a procedure that involves delivering a high dose of a chemotherapy drug directly into the liver while shutting off the arteries supplying the blood that feeds the tumor. Interventional radiologists guide a catheter carrying the chemotherapy medication directly into the artery feeding the tumor.
Chemoembolization and radioembolization are often used in combination with radiofrequency ablation and other treatments.
- May stop liver tumors from growing or shrink them.
- Helps preserve liver function and a normal quality of life for a longer time.