A tumor requires a continuous blood supply to grow and survive. Embolization is a minimally invasive procedure that aims to block the blood supply to a tumor to reduce its size or cause complete cell death. This technique utilizes liquid, particles, or microspheres to obstruct blood vessels.
Embolization is mainly used to treat:
- Liver cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Neuroendocrine tumors (tumors in the cells of the endocrine and nervous system)
- Uterine fibroids
- Aneurysms (weakening of an artery wall that creates a bulge)
The three different types of embolization are:
- Arterial embolization: The physician injects small beads into the blood vessel supplying the tumor to stop the blood flow.
- Chemoembolization: In this technique, tiny beads infused with chemotherapy are sent through a blood vessel directly into a tumor.
- Radioembolization: Radiation therapy uses tiny beads with radioactive isotopes on them to directly treat tumors.
The advantages of embolization include:
What are the different conditions treated with tumor embolization?
Embolization can treat both cancerous and benign tumors, including:
- Cancerous tumors (specifically in the liver or kidney):
- Benign tumors:
- Uterine fibroids (noncancerous tumors that develop in and around the uterus)
- Angiomyolipoma of the kidney (benign tumor in the fat and muscle tissue usually found in the kidney)
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate)
- Hepatic adenoma (benign liver tumor)
- Hemangioblastoma (benign tumor formed in the lower part of the brain, spinal cord, or retina)
- Meningioma (benign tumor in the membranes of the brain and spinal cord)
- Juvenile nasal angiofibroma (benign tumor formed in the back of the nose in adolescent males)
- Aneurysmal bone cyst (highly destructive benign bone tumor)
- Paraganglioma’s (rare tumors that form near the carotid artery and other nerve pathways)
- Hemangiopericytoma (rare tumors of the blood vessels and soft tissues)
How is embolization of a tumor done?
The surgical removal of the tumor is made easier by the embolization procedure. During the embolization procedure:
- The physician makes a small incision in the groin area to access a blood vessel and carefully inserts a catheter into the vessel.
- Next, the physician injects dye into the vessel through the catheter to visualize the vessels during imaging.
- Using imaging, such as ultrasound or fluoroscopy, the physician directs the catheter to the desired site.
- After reaching the site, the physician inserts medication or agents, such as tiny plastic particles, foam, or little metal coils to seal the blood vessels that supply the tumor.
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The University of Michigan. Tumor Embolization. https://www.uofmhealth.org/conditions-treatments/neurointerventional-radiology/tumor-embolization
National Cancer Institute. Embolization. National Institutes of Health. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/embolization