Chemoembolization Cancer Therapy


Chemoembolization is a treatment used to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells. When it is used to treat tumor in the liver, it is called hepatic artery chemoembolization.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


  • You may need to have the procedure repeated. You may get postembolization syndrome, which includes symptoms such as a fever, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Chemoembolization may cause severe bleeding, and you may need a blood transfusion. It may also cause fatigue, dizziness, or a fast heartbeat. You may get a bruise or an infection where the catheter was inserted. You may get a blood clot in your leg or arm. The clot may travel to your heart or brain and cause life-threatening problems, such as a heart attack or stroke.

  • Chemo used during the procedure may cause hair loss, nausea, or diarrhea. Medicine used during the procedure may cause shortness of breath or a lung infection. It may cause life-threatening harm to your stomach, liver, heart, or brain.


Before your treatment:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

  • Antihormone medicine: This medicine may be given to prevent your tumor from releasing hormones during the treatment.

  • Uric acid medicine: This decreases the amount of uric acid in your body. Uric acid is a chemical in your blood that may cause damage to the kidneys during your treatment.

  • Imaging tests: Your caregiver will use an x-ray, ultrasound, or CT or MRI scan to make sure that your blood vessels are ready for treatment. These may be used to help guide your caregiver during your treatment. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. If you have an MRI, do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the caregiver if you have any metal in or on your body.

  • Pre-op care: You may be given medicine in your IV before your treatment. This medicine may help you relax or make you sleepy. Antibiotic medicine may also be given to prevent infection after your treatment.

  • Local anesthesia: This is medicine to make you comfortable during your treatment. It is injected into your skin to numb the area and dull your pain. You may still feel pressure or pushing during treatment.

  • You may need extra oxygen if your blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. You may get oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in your nostrils. Ask your healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.

  • Pulse oximeter: A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your finger, ear, or toe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine. Never turn the pulse oximeter or alarm off. An alarm will sound if your oxygen level is low or cannot be read.

During your treatment:

  • Your caregiver will make a small incision. He will insert a catheter (small, thin tube) through your artery and into your liver. The catheter will be guided into your liver until it reaches the blood vessels of the tumor.

  • Your caregiver will put the chemo medicine in the catheter to kill the cancer cells. He will then inject a substance to cut off blood flow to the tumor. Your caregiver may also use a treatment called ablation that helps destroy the tumor. Electric currents, lasers, and ultrasound are some ways to cause ablation. Your caregiver will remove the catheter after all of the treatments are complete. A bandage will be placed over the area where the catheter was inserted.

After your treatment:

You will be taken to a room where you will rest until you are fully awake. Do not get out of bed until your caregiver decides it is okay. When your caregiver sees that you are okay, you may be able to go home. If you are staying in the hospital, you will be taken back to your room. Your caregiver may ask you to lie flat on your back. A sandbag may be placed over the wound in your groin to keep it from bleeding. Your caregiver may do blood tests and other tests such as CT scan or Doppler ultrasound to check your blood and arteries.

  • Medicines:

    • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you ask for more medicine.

    • Antinausea medicine: This medicine may be given to calm your stomach and prevent vomiting.

  • Intake and output: Caregivers will keep track of the amount of liquid you are getting. They also may need to know how much you are urinating. Ask how much liquid you should drink each day. Ask caregivers if they need to measure or collect your urine.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.