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Interventional Radiology Gives Liver Cancer Survivor Hope, Time

Liver cancer patient Jon Rydholm.

August 29, 2019

In 2013, Jon Rydholm was diagnosed with liver cancer and received a grim prognosis: He was given 6 months to live.

Since then, the retired Weston, Missouri, resident has celebrated 3 birthdays, 4 wedding anniversaries and witnessed the birth of 2 grandchildren, Jon Merton, 4, and Eleanor, 4 months.

“I’m a miracle,” says Jon, 68, who also had colon cancer unrelated to his liver cancer.

He attributes his survival to the care he has received at The University of Kansas Cancer Center, a special diet and herbs, and his faith.

Thanks to Jon’s diligence and specialized interventional radiology procedures, his cancer has been under control for the past 4 years, most importantly, with a great quality of life, says his interventional radiologist at The University of Kansas Health System.

The health system operates the largest interventional radiology program (by patient volume) in the nation. Like Jon, many interventional radiology patients have liver cancer.

A diseased liver is the biggest threat to a patient’s overall survival. If interventional radiology treatment can control the tumor burden in the liver, liver failure can be managed, says his interventional radiologist.

Targeting tumors with interventional radiology

The interventional radiology treatments Jon has received include transarterial chemoembolization (TACE), Y-90 radiation and microwave ablation.

These technologies zero in on the tumor itself while sparing the remainder of the patient’s liver and body from systemic side effects, says his physician. All 3 are administered internally with just a needle puncture. There are no incisions and no stitches.

Jon continues to receive TACE and microwave ablation as necessary.

In the TACE procedure, his physician snakes a catheter – the size of angel hair pasta – into Jon's liver and maps the blood vessels supplying the tumors. In subsequent procedures, an even smaller micro catheter carries tiny spheres of chemotherapy (or Y-90 radiation) into the mapped blood vessels to kill the tumors.

In microwave ablation, physicians use computed tomography (CT) to safely guide thermal energy to heat and kill each tumor.

After 8 TACE and 5 microwave ablation procedures, nearly all of Jon’s liver cancer has been destroyed. He is now able to envision a future with his wife, Kathleen.

Because their large home is a lot for the retirees to care for, the Rydholms are considering their options.

“We are talking about downsizing,” Jon shares.

Ease of liver cancer treatment

Interventional radiology is a welcome treatment for many colorectal cancer patients who have liver metastases and who may have exhausted other treatment options, such as chemotherapy or surgery.

Interventional radiology procedures are experiencing a surge in use across the nation. Technology advances, clinical studies and wide application contribute to the increasing importance of interventional radiology in cancer treatment.

Interventional radiology procedures also have proven effective on melanomapancreatic cancer, neuroendocrine cancer, kidney cancerbreast cancerbone cancer and lung cancer.

Equally important are the procedures’ emphasis on patient comfort. Painless and well-tolerated, TACE, Y-90 and microwave ablation are outpatient procedures – performed while patients are under conscious sedation. Patients return home with no recovery time and no major side effects.

Today, Jon enjoys a quality of life he never thought possible after his terminal diagnosis.

“I’m pretty lucky,” he says.

Seeing cancer as a chronic disease

The key to more success stories like Jon’s is integrating interventional radiology therapies with other complementary cancer therapies and administering them earlier in the treatment regimen, his physician explains. Together, they have improved outcomes more than using each therapy alone.

Interventional radiology procedures are, and can only be, successful with the expertise of a multidisciplinary cancer team such as that at The University of Kansas Cancer Center.

In fact, the team approach is one of the things Jon values most.

“My doctors meet once a week to discuss my case,” he says. “It’s like the entire cancer center is working for my benefit.”

The hope, his physician shares, is that cancer one day becomes a manageable chronic disease process that physicians closely monitor so patients like Jon can live longer and enjoy an improved quality of life.

For Jon, being referred to The University of Kansas Cancer Center was a pivotal moment in his cancer journey.

“They said this was the best place to go for cancer,” he says. “And, it is.”

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As with all treatments, individual patient results vary. It is important to discuss your treatment options with your healthcare provider.

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