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Cancer Health Center

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Childhood Liver Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - Treatment Option Overview


Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy. 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, beads, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer. The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

Radioembolization of the hepatic artery (the main artery that supplies blood to the liver) is a type of internal radiation therapy used to treat childhood liver cancer. A very small amount of a radioactive substance is attached to tiny beads that are injected into the hepatic artery through a catheter (thin tube). The beads are mixed with a substance that blocks the artery, cutting off blood flow to the tumor. Most of the radiation is trapped near the tumor to kill the cancer cells. This is done to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life for children with hepatocellular carcinoma.

Percutaneous ethanol injection

Percutaneous ethanol injection is a cancer treatment in which a small needle is used to inject ethanol (alcohol) directly into a tumor to kill cancer cells.

Antiviral treatment

Hepatocellular carcinoma that is linked to the hepatitis B virus is not common in children in the United States. Antiviral drugs that treat infection caused by the hepatitis B virus are being studied in the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma.

New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.

Information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial.

For some patients, taking part in a clinical trial may be the best treatment choice. Clinical trials are part of the cancer research process. Clinical trials are done to find out if new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard treatment.

Many of today's standard treatments for cancer are based on earlier clinical trials. Patients who take part in a clinical trial may receive the standard treatment or be among the first to receive a new treatment.

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