Minimally invasive liver cancer treatment improving quality of life for patients

Ask the Expert

GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) – According to the American Cancer Society, the number of new liver cancers are rising faster than for any other cancer.

As a professional bowler battling stage 4 liver cancer, Norman Tucker undergoes cancer treatments regularly, but says one particular kind of treatment made a huge difference. It’s called Y90.

The minimally invasive procedure has been used nationally for years, but is new to Bon Secours St. Francis.

“We’ve done a couple so far, with great results,” Interventional radiologist Dr. Dan Bozarth explained. “Not all tumors respond to chemotherapy, so not using chemotherapy but instead using radiation…. it’s way better tolerated than some of the other therapies,” he said.

Using x-rays for guidance, the procedure involves inserting a catheter filled with beads of radiation into a blood vessel in the leg that’s feeding a cancerous tumor. Radiation is sent to the tumor through that blood vessel.

“Once we know we can get these little tiny beads filled with radiation into these tumor cells, we inject it under x-ray guidance to make sure it’s in the right spot, and it delivers radiation directly to the tumor,” Dr. Bozarth said.

The radiation in those beads is the radioactive Isotope Yttrium 90, hence the name. This method spares normal tissue and can extend the life of patients and improve their quality of life, he said.

“You can expect just a few days of recovery, maybe fatigue for a couple of weeks,” Dr. Bozarth said.

Tucker can attest to that. He said he was able to get back to bowling just 5 days after the procedure and didn’t need to take any medication for pain.

“I don’t have the pain, suffering, sitting at home, doing nothing, lingering for months at a time…. I can compete with the big boys now, so I’m happy,”
he said.

Dr. Bozarth said this therapy is recommended for patients who have cancer that started in the liver or had other cancers that spread to the liver and are not responding to chemotherapy.

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