The information on this page was reviewed and approved by
Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science at CTCA.

This page was updated on May 3, 2021.

Interventional radiology for liver cancer

Interventional radiology uses minimally invasive procedures to treat both local and metastatic cancers. These procedures use X-rays, CT scans, MRIs and other image-guided technologies to place a catheter inside the body and treat patients non-surgically. Several interventional radiology procedures may be used to treat liver cancer patients. They include:

Chemoembolization is a procedure designed to deliver chemotherapy directly to a tumor while also cutting off the tumor’s blood supply. During chemoembolization, a catheter is used to deliver chemotherapy microspheres directly into a tumor using image guidance. The chemotherapy drugs are released from the microspheres into the tumor, blocking the flow of blood to the tumor.

Intra-arterial chemotherapy (IAC) delivers chemotherapy drugs directly into the liver tumor through a catheter. This procedure is designed to allow a more potent dose of chemo therapy to reach the tumor while reducing systemic side effects.

NanoKnife® is a minimally invasive option for some liver cancer patients with an inoperable tumor that is typically less than three centimeters. NanoKnife system uses electrical currents to treat tumors.

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is often used to treat small tumors. This technique may offer faster, more targeted liver cancer treatment with fewer side effects and shorter hospital stays compared with standard therapies. Other forms of ablation therapy include:

  • Microwave ablation uses heat to kill tumors, much like RFA. It typically can treat larger tumors than RFA.
  • Cryoablation uses extreme cold to destroy cancer cells. Guided by ultrasound imaging, the doctor will place the cryoprobe (metal probe) containing liquid nitrogen directly onto liver tumors. The cryoprobe destroys the tumor by freezing it. Cryoblation may be used to treat larger tumors than the other ablation techniques, and it sometimes requires general anesthesia.

TheraSphere® and SIR-Spheres® use tiny microspheres to deliver radiation therapy directly into the liver. These internal radiation therapies use the tumor’s blood supply to deliver the treatment directly into the tumor, while reducing damage to nearby healthy tissue.

Learn more about risk factors for liver cancer

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