A diagnosis of cancer is definitely the worst news one can get from the doctor. It is made even worse if the tumor is inoperable or poses special difficulties to traditional treatments, such as radiation therapy. Fortunately, modern technology has evolved in amazing ways and its role is to improve healthcare and give patients the option of a longer life and improved quality of life.
For patients suffering from liver cancer, the latest treatment available is called Y90 radioembolization.
What Exactly Is Y90 Radioembolization?
This Y90 procedure combines two types of treatments. First, we are talking about embolization. This modern medical procedure is minimally invasive. Instead of surgery, the doctor (called an interventional radiologist) will make a small incision to guide a hollow tube (a catheter) through the veins, using a MRI or other imaging technology to see inside the body.
The catheter delivers tiny particles that obstruct the blood flow to a certain area of the body, in this case the cancerous growth. In the case of Y90 radioembolization, these particles are microspheres filled with the radioactive isotope yttrium Y90. It delivers a powerful dose of radiation specifically to the tumor, without harming the healthy tissue around it.
Thus, Y90 radioembolization is an effective treatment course for liver cancer, when surgery to remove the tumor is not an option.
How to Prepare for Y90 Radioembolization?
If your doctor decides that you are eligible for the Y90 procedure, you will have to follow specific instructions. Among these:
- Stopping any treatment with NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), blood thinners and aspirin a few days prior to the procedure
- Removing all jewelry (including metallic piercings) before going to the hospital to have your procedure
- Telling your doctor if you have allergies, are pregnant or breastfeeding and whether you had recent illnesses or have preexisting conditions
- Listing any kind of supplements you are currently taking (including holistic and herbal cures).
At the same time, you will need to have someone drive you back home from the hospital after the procedure. You will also be instructed to restrict all contact with anyone (children and adults) for 3 to 7 days after the procedure.
What Happens during Y90 Radioembolization?
The interventional radiologist will start by performing an arteriogram – an image of your veins in the upper abdominal area. Next, an IV line will be inserted into a vein in your hand to deliver anesthetic. While some patients require general anesthesia, in most cases you will not need a breathing tube. Once you are anesthetized, the doctor will sterilize the area of your body where the incision will be performed and numb it with a local anesthetic.
Next, a small incision is made and a catheter is inserted in it, guiding it to the right place using the arteriogram for reference. Once the catheter is properly positioned, the doctor will inject the Y90 loaded microsphere. The radiation will be released towards the tumor during the next 2 weeks.
The doctor will remove the catheter and apply pressure to stop the bleeding at the incision area and apply a dressing. The procedure is over and it usually lasts one hour or less.