Transarterial chemoembolisation (TACE)

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill or damage cancer cells, but traditional chemotherapy is rarely used for primary liver cancer.

Instead, transarterial chemoembolisation, or TACE, delivers high doses of chemotherapy directly to the tumour (see below). It is usually used for people who can’t have surgery or are waiting for a liver transplant. A CT or MRI scan will be done about six weeks after the TACE procedure to see how well the treatment has worked.

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TACE step by step

Transarterial chemoembolisation (TACE) delivers chemotherapy directly to a tumour while blocking its blood supply (embolisation). It is performed by an interventional radiologist.

Transarterial chemoembolisation (TACE) step by step
  1. Before TACE, you will have a local anaesthetic and possibly a sedative to help you relax.
  2. A small cut will be made in the groin, then a plastic tube called a catheter will be passed through the cut and into the hepatic artery.
  3. The chemotherapy drugs are injected into the liver through the catheter. Tiny plastic beads or soft, gelatine sponges are also injected to block the blood supply to the cancer. This may make the cancer shrink or stop growing. In some cases, beads that contain chemotherapy are given at the same time.
  4. After TACE, you will have to remain lying down for about four hours. You may also need to stay in hospital overnight for a few days.

Side effects of TACE

It is common to have a fever the day after TACE, but this usually passes quickly. You may feel some pain, which can be controlled with medicines. Some people may feel tired or report flu-like symptoms for up to a week afterwards.

This information was last reviewed in June 2018
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