Radiation therapy is sometimes used to shrink tumors to make liver surgery an option. Radiation is also used as a palliative therapy to reduce cancer symptoms. In some cases, radiation is used to treat patients unable to have liver surgery.
Patients with tumors too large for surgery, ablation, and embolization should consider radiation therapy to attempt to reduce the size of the tumors, which could make the other treatments possible.
Radiation is the process of using high-energy rays to kill cancer cells or shrink tumors. Radiation therapy effectively kills cancerous cells but must be used with caution, as it also kills healthy cells. One type of radiation is intensity-modulated radiation therapy, or IMRT. This process uses 3-D imaging to create beams molded to the shape of the tumor, lending greater precision to the beam. Another radiation treatment is stereotactic body radiation therapy, which allows a larger dose of radiation to be given in relatively fewer treatments.
The duration of treatment varies. A doctor will help devise a schedule that meets the individual needs of the patient. Therapy often takes place a certain number of days per week for several weeks.
Radiation therapy alone does not produce excellent results. It is most likely that radiation will not completely eliminate a tumor or tumors.
Side effects of radiation arises in two stages: early and late. Side effects reported during treatment, or in the early stage, include: fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hearing impairment, sexual interference, localized irritation at radiation site, loss of appetite, difficulty swallowing, and jaw stiffness. Radiation may also worsen the side effects of chemotherapy. Late side effects for radiation are those that occur sometime after treatment has been completed. Late side effects include: bladder, bowel, heart, lung, and sexual problems.
Women who are pregnant or nursing; men or women who wish to conceive, or who are not taking proper precautions to prevent pregnancy; and patients with certain autoimmune diseases or corrective diseases should not have this therapy.
Insurance sometimes covers this treatment, at least in part. Contact your healthcare provider for information regarding your exact policy. Costs for these treatments without insurance are approximately in the $10,000-55,000 range, depending on duration, geographical location, and individual needs.