Radiation Therapy for Liver Cancer

Multidisciplinary Care

Radiation oncologists at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center work together with doctors who specialize in different medical areas to provide treatment that is individualized and well-coordinated.

Learn more about comprehensive cancer services for patients with liver tumors provided by UW Health.

UW Health radiation oncologists treat several types of liver cancers. This includes cancers that begin in the liver, such as hepatocellular carcinoma and cholangiocarcinoma, as well as cancer that spreads to the liver from other body parts (metastases). Your radiation oncologist will discuss your condition and make recommendations for your care.


Learn about radiation oncology at the UW Carbone Cancer.


Radiation Treatment Options


External Beam Radiation Therapy


Beams from special X-ray machines, called linear accelerators, are aimed at the tumor from outside the body. During your treatment, a beam of radiation (high-energy X-rays) is directed through the skin to destroy cancerous cells. Treatment is typically given on a daily basis, from Monday through Friday, over a period of about 1 to 5 weeks. How often and how long you are treated varies on a case-by-case basis.


Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy


Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) is a specialized type of external beam radiation therapy. This treatment delivers high dose of radiation therapy very precisely to the areas of cancer within the liver in a total of about 5 outpatient treatments. 


To prepare for treatment, a special CT scan is done. Your radiation oncologist will use this CT scan to design a radiation treatment plan that will deliver a high dose of radiation to the liver tumor, with little injury to the healthy liver and other body parts. Typically, 2 to 3 outpatient treatments are delivered each week. Patients are not radioactive at any time during treatment.


TheraSphere (Yttrium-90)


TheraSphere® is an outpatient treatment that is done in the Interventional Radiology Clinic. The treatment involves injecting tiny radioactive glass beads (TheraSpheres®) into the liver arteries (the blood vessels that bring oxygen to the liver). The TheraSpheres® travel through the blood vessels until they lodge into the smaller blood vessels of the liver tumor. The beads stay there and give off radiation that destroys the cancer cells with little injury to the healthy liver. After 3 days, the beads lose their radioactivity. There are special radiation precautions to follow for the first 3 days after the procedure.


Radiation Oncology Doctors


Bethany M. Anderson, MD

Michael Bassetti, MD, PhD

Kristin A. Bradley, MD

Mark A. Ritter, MD, PhD