What is Chemoembolization?
Chemoembolization is a minimally invasive procedure performed by an interventional radiologist to treat liver cancer. For those liver cancer patients who are not candidates for standard therapy, chemoembolization is a procedure to deliver a high dose of cancer killing drugs (chemotherapy) directly to the liver tumor through the artery. During this procedure, the artery is blocked (embolized) to cut off blood flow to the tumor. Chemoembolization may be used as a standalone treatment or in combination with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or radiofrequency ablation.
If your physician has told you that you have liver cancer, but are not a candidate for standard treatment, then chemoembolization may be a good option for you.
Chemoembolization is a treatment for liver cancer, but it is not a cure. It may provide relief from symptoms and the stress of a serious illness. The goal of this palliative care is to improve quality of life for both the patient and their family. At Azura Vascular Care, our interventional radiologists are highly skilled in using the vascular system to deliver targeted treatments throughout your body.
What Does Chemoembolization Accomplish?
- The tumor is deprived of oxygen and nutrients when the blood supply is blocked.
- A high concentration of chemotherapy is administered directly to the tumor compared to the concentrations given through your vein (IV).
- Chemotherapy remains in the tumor for a much longer time (as long as 1 month) with your artery blocked. Blood will not be able to circulate through the tumor.
- Side effects may be milder compared with the chemotherapy given through your vein because the medications are trapped in the liver and not circulating throughout your body.
How Is Chemoembolization Performed?
A small tube (catheter) is threaded from a blood vessel in your groin into the blood vessels feeding the tumor in your liver. Chemotherapeutic drugs and a blood vessel occluding agent are injected through the catheter directly at the site of the tumor.
A highly concentrated dose of anti-tumor drug is delivered and the blood vessels are partially blocked with the occluding agent which starves the tumor of its blood supply. The drugs are delivered in a high concentration because less of the drug circulates around your body, even to healthy tissues. This direct approach can slow or stop tumor growth, and in some cases may result in significant shrinkage of the tumor.
What are the Side Effects?
Following the procedure, it’s possible that you may experience fever, pain and/or nausea. These symptoms may last a few hours to up to a week, and are easily treated by medications. You may experience fatigue or loss of appetite for 2 weeks or more. You may also notice slight hair loss. More serious complications, although rare, include infection, development of an abscess in the liver and bleeding.
What are the Benefits of Chemoembolization?
- Chemoembolization stops liver tumors from growing or causes them to shrink in about 2/3 of the cases. This usually lasts for about 10-14 months and if the tumor begins growing, this procedure can be performed again.
- It can be used in combination with tumor ablation, chemotherapy, and radiation.
- Since chemoembolization helps to prevent tumor growth it has the potential to also preserve liver function and allow someone with liver cancer to have an improved quality of life.
How We Can Help You
If you have diagnosed with liver cancer, but have been told that standard treatment is not right for you, know that you have another option for care. Our interventional radiologists and vascular surgeons use minimally invasive techniques to treat your liver cancer with chemoembolization, and improve your quality of life.
At Azura, we work every day to deliver far more than our patients expect. We bring our full range of medical capabilities and service excellence to every patient, every visit, at each of our centers nationwide.
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