Cancer Home > Liver Cancer Radiation Therapy

One of the treatment options for liver cancer, radiation therapy (also known as radiotherapy) uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells. There are two general ways in which radiation therapy may be administered: either from a machine outside the body (external radiation) or from a radioactive substance sealed in objects placed into or near the cancer (internal radiation). For people with liver cancer, radiation therapy may cause side effects, which may include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and urinary discomfort.

Liver Cancer Radiation Therapy: An Overview

Radiation therapy (also known as radiotherapy) is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells. Liver cancer radiation therapy is administered in different ways:
  • External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer
  • Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer.
Drugs called radiosensitizers may be given with the radiation therapy to make the cancer cells more sensitive to radiation therapy.
Radiation may be delivered to the tumor using radiolabeled antibodies. Radioactive substances are attached to antibodies made in the laboratory. These antibodies, which target tumor cells, are injected into the body and the tumor cells are killed by the radioactive substance.
The way the liver cancer radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of liver cancer being treated.

Side Effects Associated With Liver Cancer Radiation Therapy

The side effects of liver cancer radiation therapy depend mainly on the treatment dose and the part of the body that is treated. Patients are likely to become very tired during radiation therapy, especially in the later weeks of treatment. Resting is important, but doctors usually advise patients to try to stay as active as they can.
Radiation therapy to the chest and abdomen may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or urinary discomfort. Radiation therapy also may cause a decrease in the number of healthy white blood cells -- cells that help protect the body against infection. Although the side effects of liver cancer radiation therapy can be distressing, the doctor can usually treat or control them.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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