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Chemoembolization for Liver Cancer

Chemoembolization is a treatment for cancer in the liver. This procedure can be used for cancer that began in the liver. It can also be used for cancer that has spread or metastasized to the liver from other areas of the body. Chemoembolization treats only cancer in the liver. The procedure is done by a specially trained doctor called an interventional radiologist.

Woman lying in hospital bed with IV in arm. Man is sitting next to bed. Healthcare provider is checking IV. 

Preparing for your procedure

You should not eat or drink anything for 6 hours before the procedure.

Tell your provider about any medicines you are taking. You may need to stop taking all or some of these before the test. This includes:

  • All prescription medicines

  • Over-the-counter medicines such as aspirin or ibuprofen

  • Street drugs

  • Herbs, vitamins, and other supplements

During your procedure

When you arrive for the procedure, an IV or intravenous line will be put into a vein in your arm. This line will give you fluids and medicines to prepare your body for the procedure. Preparation may take several hours. To begin the procedure:

  • A thin, flexible tube called a catheter is placed into an artery in your groin.

  • X-ray dye or contrast medium is injected through the catheter. This helps the artery and catheter show up better on X-rays. The catheter’s movement can then be watched on a computer screen.

  • The catheter is guided to the hepatic artery in the liver and moved to the tumor.

  • The chemoembolization medicines are injected through the catheter. A substance that blocks the artery is then injected.

  • The catheter is removed. Pressure is put on the insertion site for 15 minutes to prevent bleeding.

  • You will lie flat for several hours. During this time, an IV line continues to give you fluids. You will likely stay in the hospital for 3 to 5 days after the procedure.

Side effects of chemoembolization

Side effects include:

  • Tiredness

  • Belly or abdominal pain

  • Fever

  • Upset stomach or nausea

  • Loss of appetite

 These may last for several days. Medicines can help ease some side effects.

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