What is Radioembolization?
Radioembolization is an important minimally-invasive treatment option for patients with cancer of the liver that cannot be effectively treated by other means. It is sometimes called Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (SIRT) or intra-arterial brachytherapy, and uses microscopic radioactive spheres containing Yttrium-90 to treat the cancer. These tiny radioactive beads are injected directly into the tumors through a catheter during a procedure called an angiogram, and there begin to emit radiation, killing the cancers.
Radioembolization is generally considered safer than other forms of radiation therapy because the radioactive beads remain in the tumors, blocking blood flow, shrinking it, and without exposing the rest of the body to the radiation. Healthy tissue in other areas of the liver suffers minimal damage from the radioembolization because of the precise positioning of the particles themselves. As a result, there are far fewer side effects from the radiation. Over a period of about a month, the radiation in spheres is depleted, and any leftover particles can be left in place safely.
Radioembolization is primarily used to treat cancers of the liver that have metastasized from other locations in the body, especially the colon. It can be used in conjunction with other therapies (such as surgery or chemotherapy), and can be used to shrink large tumors to allow for surgical removal. As with other forms of embolization, this therapy is not appropriate for patients with severe liver disease or who have blocked or abnormal blood flow between the liver and lungs. This procedure is performed on two separate procedure days.