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What Is Transarterial Chemoembolization?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Transarterial Chemoembolization (TACE) introduces chemotherapy directly to a liver tumor and blocks its blood supply. This approach is designed to kill tumors and limit opportunities for them to proliferate. It may be appropriate for some patients with liver cancers, and can be discussed as a treatment option if a patient is a good candidate. Treatment can extend life, but it also comes with some risks, including severe liver damage. Patients with severe liver impairment may not be good choices for transarterial chemoembolization procedures.

In this minimally invasive treatment option, a technician threads a catheter into the liver with the assistance of imaging equipment to make sure it is placed in the right place. The technician injects chemotherapy medication directly into the tumor, allowing for a small and highly targeted dose. Chemical gels or mechanical devices can be placed in the blood vessel after the chemotherapy to cut off the flow of blood to the tumor. Once the imaging confirms they are correctly placed, the technician can withdraw the catheter.

Patients may need to stay overnight after the procedure for monitoring. They can experience some inflammation which may cause fever and abdominal pain after the procedure. In cases where the liver is damaged, this can impair liver function and may lead to complications like jaundice or even death. Medical personnel monitor the patient carefully for signs that might indicate the patient’s liver is impaired after transarterial chemoembolization.

Also termed hepatic artery chemoembolization, this treatment may be an option for patients who are not good candidates for surgery, for a variety of reasons. It is less invasive than surgery and thus comes with a reduced risk of complications like infections at the site of the surgical incision or bad reactions to anesthesia. After transarterial chemoembolization, patients still need follow-up tests to see if the tumor responded to the treatment and to check for complications. These can include imaging studies as well as blood tests to assess liver function.

The prognosis for patients with liver cancers can depend on the type of cancer and the stage. Catching cancers earlier can increase treatment options and survival rates by allowing care personnel to attack the growth early, before it has a chance to spread. Some procedures may not be options in cases of advanced cancers, which can limit access to the best possible treatments. People who notice symptoms like persistent abdominal pain, nausea, and abdominal tenderness may want to seek medical evaluation to determine if these are signs of liver or other abdominal cancers.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Lostnfound — On May 30, 2014

It's good to know that patients who aren't candidates for surgery do have other options for treatment for liver cancer. It's absolutely amazing the advancements modern medicine has made in the past 20 years. It's so encouraging to see so many more treatments available for cancer patients.

By Grivusangel — On May 29, 2014

Good heavens! What a long name for a procedure! However, I can certainly see the benefits of doing chemotherapy in this way. It directly targets the organ in question, which can only be a good thing. I would also think the other side effects of chemo, like nausea or hair loss. If those side effects are diminished, that would seem to be a really optimal treatment.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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