There are many types of liver cancer treatment, with each one bringing its own advantages and disadvantages. One of the most effective treatments that can be administered in a local hospital setting and doesn’t require an invasive surgical procedure is chemoembolization, or chemoembolization therapy (CET). This treatment works by using contrast media to locate tumors in the liver, which are then removed through an interventional radiology procedure known as embolization. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with liver cancer, talk to your doctor about whether chemoembolization may be right for you.
What is Chemoembolization
Chemoembolization works to shrink liver tumors by delivering small doses of chemotherapy directly to where it’s needed. The treatment is typically used for people with liver cancer that has metastasized, meaning that cancer cells have spread from one part of the body to another. For these patients, conventional chemotherapy — which sends medication throughout your body to attack a disease — may not be an option because it could damage healthy tissue.
How it Works
Chemotherapy is combined with an embolic agent and injected into a vein. The two substances travel to cancer cells throughout the body, including those in and around liver tumors, where they combine to damage or kill them. Most people will receive treatment one to three times per week for four to six weeks. While chemoembolization alone has little effect on non-cancerous liver tissue, doctors are quick to note that it’s important to start treatment before tumors spread too far.
Who It’s For
Anyone with liver cancer or at risk for developing it. This procedure may also be performed if you have primary liver cancer that can’t be removed with surgery or if your cancer is too large to remove safely. (But even when surgery is an option, chemoembolization may still be recommended, especially if you are seriously ill from liver disease.) You should have a CT scan to see if chemoembolization can help you before undergoing other types of treatment.
What To Know About Chemotherapy Beforehand
You’ve probably heard about chemotherapy, but what you may not know is that it is most effective when used along with other treatments such as radiation and surgery. Chemotherapy drugs target cancer cells and destroy them before they can spread to new areas or create more cancer cells. These chemicals can have serious side effects, so it’s important to discuss these risks with your doctor beforehand.
What To Expect During Treatment
During chemoembolization, you’ll be given a local anesthetic to numb a small area of your skin so that it doesn’t hurt when your doctor makes several tiny incisions. A catheter-like those used for angiograms or kidney dialysis — is then inserted into these incisions to deliver chemotherapy directly to cancer cells in your liver. The entire process takes about three hours and is typically done on an outpatient basis.
Recovery Time and Afterwards
It usually takes one to two weeks to recover from chemoembolization, but some patients may be able to return to work within days. For patients with liver cancer, chemoembolization can improve overall survival rates and extend life expectancy. Patients should follow up with their physicians following treatment.