Kathie Kukla started steadily losing weight two years ago.
Initiallly, she viewed the weight loss as a good thing ” until she was diagnosed with liver cancer.
“When I read that report, it just absolutely terrified me,” said Kukla, a 65-year-old Sun City resident.
Kukla figured she received a death sentence when she was diagnosed with the same form of liver cancer that killed her sister 20 years ago.
However, thanks to a new treatment at Banner Boswell Medical Center in Sun City, Kukla has received a new lease on life.
Kukla is the hospital’s first patient to receive radioembolization.
The procedure involves implanting tiny resin spheres ” about one-third the size of a human hair, filled with Yttrium-90 (Y-90) ” into the arteries supplying the liver tumors with blood.
Before, the liver cancer gave Kukla severe diarrhea ” she lost about 40 pounds because of it ” and would make her flushed, shaky and tired.
“I’ve gained most of the weight back, and I’m back to my life,” Kukla said. “If you would have seen me a year ago, I looked like someone from a refugee camp. Clothes just hung on me.”
The Y-90 treatment is delivered to arteries through a minimally invasive catheter, with precautions taken to spare healthy liver tissue and the rest of the body, said Dr. Gordon Haugland, a radiologist.
For Kukla, the treatment has halted her disease progression, even shrinking some of her tumors.
Originally, she was told the tumors were too numerous to count and she had little viable liver left.
“You could almost see that her liver was being crowded out,” Haugland said of Kukla’s tumors.
Haugland, one of the interventional radiologists performing the procedure at Banner Boswell, said it is important to keep in mind that the radioembolization is not a “miracle” treatment.
It is an option for patients who haven’t responded well to other therapies or who are not candidates for other treatments, including surgery or liver transplantation.
“I still can’t believe I’ve got these funny little ugly things in my liver,” Kukla said. “I feel wonderful. I have no pain.”
Banner Boswell is just one of a handful of hospitals in the Valley offering radioembolization, including Banner Good Samaritan and Banner Desert medical centers.
Haugland said he is excited Boswell is able to offer the treatment since it means patients don’t have to travel across the Valley.
Since the treatment isn’t for everyone and isn’t a substitute for chemotherapy, Haugland suggested patients discuss the treatment with their oncologist.
During the outpatient procedure, patients are lightly sedated while a small catheter is placed in the femoral artery in the groin. Using X-ray guidance, the interventional radiologist advances the catheter to the hepatic (liver) artery. The Y-90 microspheres