Chemoembolization is one of the treatment options for liver cancer, including cancer that originated in the liver or spread there from other areas in the body. This non-invasive treatment method delivers chemotherapy through the bloodstream to directly target and attack tumors without harming healthy tissue. Read on to learn more about chemoembolization and how it can help manage your liver cancer treatment.
What is Liver Cancer?
The two main types of liver cancer are hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (ICC). Liver cancer is very rare in people under age 40, but it’s more common as you get older, with about 5% of liver cancers occurring in people over age 70.
If you have liver cancer, your doctor will first determine whether it has spread to other parts of your body. If so, treatment may be more complex — and will likely involve chemotherapy in addition to surgery and/or chemoembolization.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) reports that approximately 3,800 men and women will be diagnosed with liver cancer in 2018; it is also estimated that 1,800 people will die from it that year.
How Does Chemoembolization Work?
Chemoembolization uses a powerful chemotherapy drug to destroy liver tumors, shrink them, and keep them from growing back or spreading to other parts of your body. In addition, chemoembolization also makes it easier for doctors to remove tumors during surgery. Chemotherapy drugs used in chemoembolization include gemcitabine (Gemzar), doxorubicin (Adriamycin), mitomycin C, and cisplatin.
This procedure is generally done as an outpatient, but you may need to spend one or two nights in a hospital following treatment. If your cancer has spread outside of your liver, other treatments are often required before chemoembolization can be done. Depending on which parts of your body have been affected and how quickly doctors want to proceed with therapy, recovery from these treatments can range from weeks to months before you’re ready for chemoembolization.
Chemoembolization can damage blood vessels and cause bleeding, swelling, and scarring of nearby tissue — especially in people who have existing liver damage from cirrhosis or chronic hepatitis. This can lead to serious complications, including death.