Liver cancer is difficult to cure. Cancer that starts in the liver, also known as primary liver cancer, is rarely detectable early when it is most treatable. Most liver cancers in the U.S. are secondary, or metastatic, where cancer started somewhere else in the body, such as the pancreas, colon, stomach, breast, or lung, and has spread to the liver.
While surgery to remove the tumor or a liver transplant may be the best option, the liver’s complex network of blood vessels and bile ducts makes surgery difficult. By the time the liver cancer is detected the tumor may be inoperable. Most treatment for liver cancer focuses on making patients feel better and live longer.
With the addition of Dr. Aaron Braun, an interventional radiologist who joined Faith Regional’s medical staff in 2020, these patients can now benefit from the Y90 procedure right here in Norfolk, a fairly new treatment that gets its name from the radioactive isotope yttrium-90 that delivers a high dose of radiation directly to the tumor.
Using x-ray imaging and a contrast material to visualize the blood vessels, Dr. Braun inserts a catheter through the skin into a blood vessel and advances it to the treatment site. Tiny resin beads filled with the radioactive isotope Y-90, are placed inside the blood vessel blocking the flow of blood to the tumor and depriving the diseased cells of oxygen and nutrients to grow. Once the beads become lodged into the tumor site, they deliver a high dose of radiation to the tumor while sparing most of the healthy liver tissue.
Most patients can go home the same day of the outpatient procedure. Often, patients need to come back for another round the next month.
While not a cure, it is estimated that 75% to 95% of patients see improvement from this treatment.
- Can extend lives from months to years and improve the quality of life for those with inoperable tumors. In some cases, it may allow for more curative options such as surgery or a liver transplant.
- Produces fewer side effects compared to standard radiation therapy
- No surgical incision necessary – only a small nick of the skin that doesn’t need stitches
- A higher dose of radiation to the tumor is given than with standard external beam therapy