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Chemoembolization for Liver Cancer

Chemoembolization is a way to treat cancer in the liver. It can be used for cancer that began in the liver. Or it can be used for cancer that has spread (metastasized) to the liver from other parts of the body. The procedure treats only cancer in the liver. It is done by a specially trained doctor. The doctor is called an interventional radiologist.

Man and woman sitting at desk talking to healthcare provider.

How Chemoembolization Works

The hepatic artery is a large blood vessel. It sends blood to the liver. To grow, a liver tumor takes most of its blood from this artery. During the procedure, chemotherapy medications are put into the hepatic artery. It is then blocked off from the rest of the body. This makes sure the medications stay in the liver. And it cuts off blood to the tumor.

The Goals of Chemoembolization

  • Blocking the tumor’s blood flow so it receives no oxygen or nutrients

  • Delivering high doses of chemotherapy medications directly to the tumor site

  • Keeping chemotherapy medications in the tumor for long periods of time

  • Reducing side effects to the rest of the body because the medications do not leave the liver

Potential Risks and Complications Include

  • Blood clot in a blood vessel

  • Infection or bruising at the catheter insertion site

  • Death of normal liver tissue that may result in liver failure

  • Damage to the gallbladder

  • Problems due to the contrast medium such as allergic reaction or kidney damage

  • Damage to an artery

  • Death

Online Medical Reviewer: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 12/15/2013
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