Interventional Radiology

Chemoembolization and Liver Cancer

Chemoembolization, also called Transcatheter Arterial Chemoembolization or TACE for short, is a treatment for liver cancer. TACE is a minimally invasive procedure that delivers a high dose of chemotherapy directly to the liver while also blocking the tumor’s blood supply.

Liver Cancer

Cancers can start in the liver or spread (metastasize) to the liver.  Hepatocellular carcinoma and cholangiocarcinoma both start in the liver. Cirrhosis, hepatitis C infection and other liver diseases increase the risk for developing liver cancer. Colon cancer, neuroendocrine tumor, carcinoid tumor, melanoma and breast cancer are a few of the cancers that can spread to the liver. In the right patients, chemoembolization can be used in the treatment of any of these cancers.

Treatment with Chemoembolization

An interventional radiologist will use imaging to guide the insertion of a tiny catheter into the blood vessels through a tiny nick in the skin. The catheter is used to release chemotherapy and tiny particles into the arteries supplying the tumor. The particles not only block blood flow to the tumor, but they also keep the chemotherapy drug inside the tumor. This allows the interventional radiologist to administer higher doses of chemotherapy because less of it will be able to circulate in the body and affect healthy cells.

What to Expect

First, you will meet with an interventional radiologist who specializes in liver cancer, to determine whether chemoembolization is right for you. Advanced imaging (CT or MRI) will be used to look at your liver and cancer. You will also have bloodwork to check how well your liver is working.

On the day of your treatment, you will come to the Aspirus Wausau Hospital. You will speak again with your interventional radiologist before your procedure. The procedure takes 2 - 3 hours. After the procedure, you will be observed in the hospital overnight. You will receive medication to control any pain you may have. Not everyone has pain. 


Schedule a consult with an Interventional Radiologist to discuss liver cancer and chemoembolization.