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Liver Cancer Treatment and Radiation  

Radiation therapy can be a very good treatment option for cases where a tumor may be inoperable. It can also be used effectively to help to ensure that any remaining cancer cells are eliminated following a surgical procedure to remove a cancerous tumor or tissue. One way in which radiation therapy is used is to deliver liver cancer radiation. 

External beam radiation therapy  

This type of radiation therapy focuses radiation delivered from outside the body on the cancer. This can sometimes be used to shrink liver tumors to relieve symptoms such as pain, but it is not used as often as other local treatments such as ablation or embolization. Although liver cancer cells are sensitive to radiation, this treatment can't be used at very high doses because normal liver tissue is also easily damaged by radiation. 

If cancer forms in the liver, it is normally not possible to remove this cancer surgically.  So radiation therapy is used to apply dosages of radiation at specific parts of the liver which are believed to contain cancerous tumors or tissues. 

One type of radiation therapy used for liver cancer uses a machine which can produce these radiation beams outside of the body.  So the equipment produces the beams which are very much high powered x-ray beams and directs them to the desired location of the tumors.  The tumor or tumors absorb the radiation and over time can be destroyed by the radiation.  This enables the tumor to be treated without resorting to surgical procedures. 

There are advanced techniques which can help to target the radiation directly at the tumors and minimize exposure and damage to healthy surrounding tissue. 

A technique called three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy makes use of advanced computers to accurately map the size and location of the tumors.  It can help doctors to target the radioactive beam at the tumor with minimal impact to healthy tissue. 

There are other types of radiation therapy which can help deliver liver cancer radiation more effectively and on a targeted manner.  A technique called stereotactic body radiation therapy uses small doses of high powered radiation at the tumor from different angles.  This provides maximum exposure with minimal side effects. 

Another technique called embolization therapy injects radioactive beads directly into the liver.  They travel to the tumor and are able to act as targets for radiation therapy. 

When external radiation therapy is used, it can have a common side effect of producing a sunburn like symptom.  And this kind of treatment can also induce nausea, vomiting and fatigue.  These symptoms generally go away after treatment.  Radiation therapy can also intensify the side effects of chemotherapy so the use of both types of treatment at the same time is limited. 

Radiation therapy may also affect sexual function.  Although newer techniques are designed to limit the exposure of radiation primarily to the site of the liver cancer tumor, it does tend to affect other parts of the liver and has the potential to damage otherwise healthy parts of the liver. 

But for many types of liver cancer, it is a preferred method of treatment to shrink tumors enough to make surgical removal feasible.  Or it can be used as a treatment option to help control the growth of the cancer and manage the symptoms for as long as possible.