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CoxHealth Offers Minimally Invasive Liver Cancer Treatment

Liver (Credit:

Yitrium-90 or Y-90 is a state-of-the-art minimally invasive, outpatient cancer treatment that’s been available at CoxHealth for nearly a year.

Dr. Chip Woodall, with CoxHealth Surgical Oncology, says it’s a radio isotope that’s used for directed radiation—in this case, to the liver.

It can be used both for people whose cancer originated in the liver or has spread to the liver.

According to Dr. Woodall, it’s delivered in a tiny bead.

"That's the size of a third of the width of a hair straight into the liver, straight into the tumor," he said.

The bead is delivered through a catheter in the femoral artery in the groin, according to Dr. Woodall.

The beads have a limited range of emission, he says, so high doses of isolated radiation are delivered to the site of the tumors, causing cell death without harming surrounding healthy tissue in the liver.  He says this method has a highly lethal effect on a tumor—often the tumor will go away completely.  But he considers a case a success even if it doesn’t.

"I have always been of the mindset that, if we can stop the tumor from growing, decrease its vascularity, at least get people to stable disease, then we've done some good, so most of the people we can get there," he said.

Patients with primary liver cancer who also have cirrhosis can be eligible for a transplant.  Woodall says Y-90 can keep them on the waiting list longer.

"If their tumor gets too big, they have to come off the list--there's set criteria that they have to meet, and this can, we refer to it as bridge patients, but get patients to a transplant that may otherwise be nontransplantable based on size criteria," he said.

About 40 patients have been treated with Y-90 so far at Cox.  Woodall says the majority of them have told him it’s the easiest treatment they’ve undergone for their liver cancer.

And Woodall says having this option here allows patients to stay close to home without having to drive hours for treatment.  More than 95% of liver cancer patients at CoxHealth are now being treated in Springfield.

For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.