Radioembolization is very similar to chemoembolization but with the use of radioactive microspheres. This therapy is used to treat both primary and metastatic liver tumors.
This treatment incorporates the radioactive isotope Yttrium-90 into the embolic spheres to deliver radiation directly to the tumor. Each sphere is about the size of five red blood cells in width. These beads are injected through a catheter from the groin into the liver artery supplying the tumor. The beads become lodged within the tumor vessels where they emit their local radiation that causes cell death. This technique allows for a higher, local dose of radiation to be used, without subjecting healthy tissue in the body to the radiation. The Yttrium-90 radiates from within and, since it is administered in the hepatic artery, it can be viewed as “internal” radiation.
This procedure can be extremely effective in treating primary liver cancers and certain metastatic liver tumors, especially when combined with other therapies.
Am I a good candidate?
Patients with primary or metastatic liver cancer might be good candidates for this procedure based on clinical presentation, laboratory data and findings on medical imaging such as CT or MRI. A further determination will be made based on an arterial mapping study and a lung shunt study.
What should I Expect?
The procedure is performed as an outpatient treatment. Radioembolization is a multi-step procedure. The first step involves the completion of the arterial mapping study and a lung shunt study. This will be followed by one or possibly two treatments.
There are fewer side effects from this treatment compared to standard cancer treatments, with the main one being fatigue for seven to 10 days. Some patients may experience mild nausea and abdominal discomfort lasting between 24-48 hours following the procedure.
Consult with your oncologist about the benefits of the Radioembolization.
Radioembolization is a palliative, not a curative, treatment-but patients benefit by extending their lives and improving their quality of life. It is a relatively new therapy that has been effective in treating primary and metastatic liver cancers.
Radioembolization works in conjunction with most other cancer treatments, providing targeted treatment to liver tumors.