Fun, sun, relaxation and maybe a Disney character or two?that?s all anyone expects from a vacation to Florida. Unfortunately, Jim O?Brien also got the last thing in the world he suspected. He was told he had cancer.
Though he says there is no history of liver cancer in his family, O?Brien learned he had the condition during a trip to the emergency department in Florida.
?I could hardly believe the news,? he says. ?I didn?t think it was possible. Unfortunately, a CT scan showed otherwise.?
O?Brien engaged in a six-week liver cancer study. But the cancer proved to be aggressive and he didn?t respond well to the treatment.
?The pills were tearing me down,? he says. ?I lost 30 pounds in a very short time.?
Hoping to find a treatment that would be less taxing on his body, O?Brien was referred to?Dr. Joshua Tepper, an interventional radiologist with?Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center?in Joliet. Dr. Tepper recommended?radioembolization therapy, a leading edge outpatient treatment that combines radiation treatment with embolization?blocking the blood flow to a tumor to essentially starve the cancerous cells.
O?Brien?s treatment consisted of an injection of radioactive yttrium 90 (Y90), provided in a one-hour procedure that had him home by lunch time.
?Liver cancer is difficult to treat because the liver is fairly dense,? Dr. Tepper says. ?High doses of external beam radiation can damage healthy liver cells. But with radioembolization, only the cancer cells are targeted and killed, making it an ideal procedure for aggressive liver cancers.?
He says radioembolization is not only a useful treatment for primary liver cancers, but can be used to treat cancers that have spread to the liver, such as cancers of the breast or colon.
Before starting the new procedure, Dr. Tepper says O?Brien had to build his body back up from what he?d lost with the previous treatment.
?I hadn?t been able to eat or walk my usual three miles a day,? O?Brien says of his condition before the treatment. ?I didn?t have the energy to do anything following (the study), but Dr. Tepper gave me hope and it worked.?
Today, he says his multiple liver tumors are virtually gone. And he?s back out and walking daily, steadily increasing his stamina.