Radiation therapy: SIRT and SBRT for secondary liver cancer
Also known as radiotherapy, radiation therapy uses targeted radiation to treat cancer. The radiation is usually in the form of x-ray beams. Conventional external beam radiation therapy is not often used for secondary cancer in the liver, but two specialised forms of radiation therapy may be offered in some cases.
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The most common type of radiation therapy used for secondary cancer in the liver is selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT).
SIRT may be offered for bowel cancer and other cancers that have spread to the liver when the tumours can’t be removed with surgery. It’s often used if there are many small tumours throughout the liver.
SIRT is not available in all hospitals. If you don’t have private health insurance that covers this treatment, you may need to pay for it yourself. Talk to your doctor about SIRT and the costs involved.
How does the SIRT process work?
Also called radioembolisation, SIRT is a treatment that precisely targets cancers in the liver with high doses of radiation while causing little damage to normal liver tissue. It uses tiny radioactive beads known by the brand name SIR-Spheres.
SIRT can be given as a single treatment to the whole liver or separate treatments to the right and left lobes.
The procedure is done by an interventional radiologist.
|1. Before treatment (work-up day)|
|2. During treatment (delivery day)|
|3. After treatment|
Some cancer centres offer a form of external radiation therapy called stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT). You will lie on a treatment table and a machine will deliver tightly focused beams of high-dose radiation precisely onto the tumour from many different angles.
SBRT may be offered to some people with small secondary tumours in the liver. Side effects after treatment may include fatigue, nausea and abdominal discomfort. SBRT is sometimes called stereotactic ablative body radiation therapy (SABR).
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Dr David Yeo, Hepatobiliary/Transplant Surgeon, Royal Prince Alfred, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse Cancer Centre and St George Hospitals, NSW; Dr Lorraine Chantrill, Head of Department Medical Oncology, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, NSW; Michael Coulson, Consumer; Dr Sam Davis, Interventional Radiologist, Staff Specialist, Royal Brisbane and Women‘s Hospital, QLD; Prof Chris Karapetis, Network Clinical Director (Cancer Services), Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, Head, Department of Medical Oncology, Flinders Medical Centre and Flinders University, SA; Dr Howard Liu, Radiation Oncologist, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Lina Sharma, Consumer; Dr Graham Starkey, Hepato-Biliary and General Surgeon, Austin Hospital, VIC; Catherine Trevaskis, Gastrointestinal Cancer Specialist Nurse, Canberra Hospital and Health Services, ACT; Dr Michael Wallace, Western Australia Liver Transplant Service, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA.
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