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Piedmont Athens Now Offering Breakthrough Liver Cancer Treatment

People living with liver cancer have a new treatment option known as Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (SIRT), which is now available at Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center.

SIRT is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved, non-surgical treatment that uses radiation therapy to control liver cancers that can’t be removed with surgery.

In addition to being a site where cancers originate from liver cells (primary liver cancer), the liver also is frequently an organ in which cancer spreads from elsewhere in the body (secondary liver cancer), according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).

The most effective treatment for tumors originating in or metastasizing to the liver is surgery; however, most people are not candidates for surgical treatment because of the number or location of their tumor(s).

As a revolutionary therapy designed for patients with both primary and secondary liver cancer who are unable to have surgery, SIRT works by using tiny beads, called microspheres, which contain the radioactive isotope yttrium-90, to deliver radiation directly to the tumors in the liver through the blood vessels that supply blood to the liver tumor.

In the process, these beads block the small blood vessels around the liver tumor, reducing its blood supply and ability to grow, as the radiation therapy destroys the tumor’s cells.

“This unique treatment also stays within these targeted blood vessels and conserves the healthy tissues in this area,” Randy Bethea, director of imaging services at Piedmont Athens Regional, said. “For most patients, this treatment is beneficial in reducing the sizes of tumors, which in turn, increase survival time. For some, this treatment could shrink the tumor enough that it might be able to be removed by surgery.”

The ACS estimates that more than 42,000 new cases of liver cancer, which is a leading cause of cancer death worldwide, will be diagnosed in the United States this year. Although survival rates for people with liver cancer are difficult to determine, in general, survival rates are higher for people who can have surgery to remove their cancer, regardless of the stage. Piedmont Athens Regional is the only facility in the Athens area offering SIRT treatment.

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