Chemoembolisation for primary liver cancer
Chemoembolisation treatment aims to get rid of the cancer by giving chemotherapy directly into the affected part of the liver and by cutting off the blood supply to the tumour.
This process is known as embolisation. It is also known as TACE (trans-arterial chemoembolisation) treatment or CT-ACE (computerised tomography guided arterial chemoembolisation).
Chemotherapy drugs are injected directly into the liver tumour. They’re mixed with a substance called lipiodol, which helps the chemotherapy stay in the liver for longer. This makes the treatment more effective. The chemotherapy drugs most often used in this treatment are doxorubicin and cisplatin.
You’ll be given a local anaesthetic and possibly a mild sedative to help you relax. The doctor then puts a fine tube called a catheter into a main blood vessel in your groin (femoral artery). The catheter is passed along the femoral artery until it reaches the main blood vessel that carries blood to the liver (hepatic artery).
The chemotherapy and lipiodol mixture is then injected into the liver through the catheter. Usually the doctor will also inject something, such as a gel or some tiny plastic beads, to block the blood flow to the tumour. Blocking the blood supply (embolisation) will starve the tumour of oxygen, which can help to destroy it.
Chemoembolisation is carried out in the x-ray department at the hospital. You’ll probably need to stay in hospital overnight and possibly longer. The treatment can be repeated several times.
Chemoembolisation is sometimes combined with radiofrequency ablation – your doctor can explain if this would be helpful for you.
Chemoembolisation can cause side effects such as sickness, pain and a raised temperature. You’ll be given anti-sickness (anti-emetic) drugs and painkillers to help control any side effects.