Radioembolization is a type of treatment for cancer that uses radioactive particles. These particles are delivered to the cancerous tumor through the person’s bloodstream. As it passes through the bloodstream, the radioactive particles will get lodged in the tumor which will them emit radiation into the tumor and hopefully kill the cancer cells. It is most commonly used with cancerous tumors of the liver but is also used for other types of cancers.
Radioembolization is a procedure performed during an angiogram. During this procedure, the doctor will insert a catheter into one of the arteries in the groin. With the help of an x-ray, the catheter moves through the blood vessels in order to send radiation into the liver’s tumor. The liquid will be injected through this catheter which contains very small radioactive particles. They should become lodged in the tumor and slowly block blood flow to the cancer cells, which kills them and shrinks the tumor in the process. There is a good success rate following a radioembolization with minimal damage to the liver.
Uses for Radioembolization
The main use for radioembolization is to treat cancerous tumors existing in the liver. There may be two forms of the disease in the liver; metastasized cancer which means the cancer spread to the livor from a tumor somewhere else in the body, or cancer that begins in the liver, also called hepatocellular carcinoma. Radioembolization can also be used on lung cancer or breast cancer associated with liver metastasis, cholangiocarcinoma, or a neuroendocrine tumor.
There are a variety of side effects of radioembolization you should be aware of if you decide on this treatment. First of all, you may experience a delayed progression of colorectal cancer after spreading to the liver. It can also shrink hepatocellular carcinomas; of course this is a positive side effect of the radiation treatment. Negative side effects are common of most radiation treatments and include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, or loss of appetite. They can range from mild to severe depending on the amount of radiation and the individual. There is a very low rate of severe side effects though a small amount of people have had complications such as liver or gallbladder failure, ulcers in th stomach or small intestine, low white blood cell count, or radiation damage to the lungs. There are tests done before going through radioembolization that will help reduce the more serious complications from the radiation procedure.