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Extending Lives of Cancer Patients

Interventional radiologists at Saint Elizabeth are extending the lives of our cancer patients through chemoembolization, a minimally-invasive procedure that successfully delivers a high-dose of chemotherapy directly to a patient’s tumor.

Chemoembolization attacks the cancer in two ways:

  1. Chemotherapy is injected directly into the blood vessels that feed the cancerous tumor
  2. The anti-cancer drugs are trapped in the tumor by a synthetic material called an embolic agent, which is placed inside the blood vessels that supply blood to the tumor

The patient benefits include:

  • Fewer side effects, because the chemotherapy is delivered directly to the tumor without exposing the entire body to the effects of the drugs
  • Slowing the growth of the tumor. The procedure cuts off the blood supply to the tumor, trapping the chemotherapy and depriving the tumor of oxygen and nutrients it needs to grow
  • Quicker recovery time, since it is a minimally-invasive procedure

The procedure is most commonly performed on patients with liver cancer. For a chemoembolization of the liver, an interventional radiologist inserts a small catheter into the femoral artery using image guidance. Once the catheter is in place, the chemotherapy and embolic agents are mixed together and delivered directly to the tumor. At the end of the procedure, the catheter is removed and the tiny opening in the skin is covered with dressing. No sutures are needed.

In two-thirds of the cancer patients, chemoembolization can stop liver tumors from growing or cause them to shrink. It isn't a cure, but chemoembolization can slow the growth of the tumor, potentially preserving liver function and improving the patient’s quality of life.