Chemoembolization is a procedure designed to treat cancers in the liver. During the procedure, a catheter will be placed in a vessel in the upper thigh. Using X-ray, the catheter is advanced into the blood vessel in the liver. Once the catheter is placed, small particles are injected to kill tumor.
Chemoembolization treats tumor by two different mechanisms. One is by shutting down the dominant blood supply to the tumor, the tumor is deprived of oxygen and nutrients required to survive and grow. Secondly, chemotherapeutic agents are infused directly into the tumor leading to a higher concentration of chemotherapy around the tumor and less chemotherapy elsewhere in the body.
What types of cancer are treated with chemoembolization?
- Primary liver cancer (Hepatocellular carcinoma)
- Metastatic liver cancer
- Head and neck
How effective are the treatments?
Chemoembolization is not a curative treatment. Like chemotherapy, it is designed to increase the patient’s life expectancy and improve cancer related symptoms.
What are the side effects?
Most commonly, patients can experience post-embolization syndrome. This is a constellation of symptoms including abdominal pain, nausea, malaise and fevers which usually subsides days after treatment without additional therapy. More serious potential complications include liver failure and injury to blood vessels.
How long is the procedure?
Each procedure lasts for two hours or less. More than one treatment may be necessary depending on the tumor volume.
How long is the hospital stay?
Most patients are discharged home the morning following the procedure. Some patients may be discharged the day of the procedure depending on their symptoms following the procedure.
How long is the recovery time?
Most patients are back to their baseline within days of the procedure. A few patients may experience fatigue for a longer duration.
Can this therapy be performed along with chemotherapy?
For most patients, chemotherapy can be delivered concurrently with the procedure. The treating interventional radiologist will work with the oncologist for appropriate scheduling.