Originally Published: November 15, 2017 5:58 a.m.
As vascular specialists, interventional radiologists target specific illnesses and diseases by using image guidance and small devices, which they guide through blood vessels to reach a part of the body that requires treatment. One such treatment is chemoembolization, a minimally invasive procedure that can shrink or even destroy cancerous liver tumors.
“Data from published studies on the procedure show that it is effective in up to 70 percent of patients in preventing disease progression,” said Ben Paxton, MD, Interventional Radiologist, Prescott.
Liver cancer can be a primary or a secondary cancer. If it is a primary cancer, the cancer tumor originates in the liver. This type of cancer is typically associated with liver cirrhosis or from Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C infection.
If it is a secondary cancer, tumor cells have spread from other organs in the body. Patients with other types of cancer are at risk for developing liver cancer since the liver acts as a holding area for circulating cancer cells.
While surgery still offers the best chance of a cure, it may not be possible for as many as two-thirds of primary liver cancer patients and as many as 90 percent of those with secondary liver cancer.
“Chemoembolization is a minimally invasive treatment for liver cancer that can be used when there is too much tumor to treat with surgical approaches,” said Paxton.
This type of treatment attacks the cancerous tumor from inside the body, while keeping the surrounding tissues and organs healthy. This is different from systemic chemotherapy that attacks the entire body as well as the cancerous tumor.
Chemoembolization delivers a high dose of chemotherapy directly into the organ while blocking, or embolizing, the arteries that supply the tumor with blood and nutrients. Embolizing the arteries that feed the tumor can help to shrink or destroy the tumor.
Chemoembolization can be used in combination with systemic chemotherapy, radiation and radiofrequency ablation treatments. These other treatments can be used to treat cancer in other parts of the body while doctors can “utilize chemoembolization to control the cancer in the liver,” according to Iyad Hamarneh, MD, Oncologist, Arizona Oncology Associates in Prescott Valley.
An example is a patient who has colon cancer that has spread to the liver. This patient has already undergone surgery and chemotherapy.
“Chemoembolization provides another, less invasive option to control their disease that has less morbidity and less mortality and potentially could help control the cancer,” Hamarneh said.
Information from YRMC Health Connect.