When surgery is not possible to remove colorectal cancer that has spread to the liver, inserting radioactive beads into the liver through its large artery may reach tumors and destroy them.
Called Selective Internal Radiation Therapy or SIRT, either resin carrying radioactive Yttrium-90 are inserted into the liver through a catheter in the hepatic artery in the groin. The tiny microspheres travel through the artery into the rich system of blood vessels that feed liver tumors. The beads get trapped in the tiny blood vessels near tumors and emit radiation that destroys cancer cells.
Radiation continues for about 14 days. After that the tiny beads, each less than a third of the diameter of a single strand of hair, remain safely within the liver.
Radiation from microspheres affects only tumors within the liver and doesn’t harm other parts of the body.
Before treatment begins, a planning angiogram is necessary. Resin beads without radioactive Yttrium are inserted through the hepatic artery and followed to be sure that the system of liver blood vessels will let them reach the tumors and not go beyond the liver where radiation could hurt other parts of the body.
SIRT treatment is delivered by an interventional radiologist with special training and experience with the procedure. Find a center where the procedure is done.
Currently, SIRT is covered by Medicare and many insurance companies for people whose colorectal cancer has already gotten worse on chemotherapy and who are not appropriate for liver surgery.
Where Can You Go for More Information
- View a recording of our patient webinar, “Treating Liver Metastases”
- SIRTEX, the manufactures of SIR-Spheres resin microspheres has information especially for patients on their website, including frequently asked questions and some excellent videos.
- Support and information for patients by patients is available from YES, both online and via toll-free telephone.