Interventional radiologists play a critical role in cancer treatment and care. They perform a variety of oncology procedures at the hospital, including:
Image-guided tumor ablation is a minimally-invasive treatment option used to destroy cancer cells. There are several methods of tumor ablation, all of which are FDA approved and performed by an interventional radiologist. The ablation method performed depends on the tumor and tumor location. The use of imaging guidance ensures that the ablation zone encompasses the entire tumor, treating it completely.
Ablations are performed at the hospital, usually under general anesthesia. Some type of ablations require a minimum of one overnight hospital stay, for monitoring and pain management. During the procedure, a specialized probe is inserted into or around the tumor to ablate (destroy) it. Radiology imaging, like ultrasound or CT, is used to guide the probe into the proper position in the tumor, and to monitor the ablation process.
This type of ablation uses extreme cold in the form of liquid nitrogen or argon gas to freeze and destroy the cancer cells. It is used to treat:
This newer technique uses electromagnetic waves to create heat to destroy cancer cells. It is most commonly used to treat:
This method of ablation uses radiofrequency energy to heat and destroy the tumor(s). It is most commonly used to treat:
There are two main types of embolization performed for liver tumors / liver cancer; both are FDA approved and performed by an interventional radiologist. Embolizations are considered palliative treatments, meaning that they don’t provide a cure but rather help slow the growth of the tumor and improve symptoms. Occasionally, embolization treatments may also reduce the size of the tumor so that curative treatments like surgery, ablation or transplant can be considered.
Tumor embolization is an image-guided, minimally-invasive procedure that involves injecting materials into blood vessels with the goal of reducing blood flow to cancer cells.
This type of embolization reduces blood flow to liver tumors and also delivers chemotherapy directly to the tumor(s). Due to the targeted treatment area, higher doses of chemotherapy can be utilized with decreased side effects compared to systemic chemotherapy treatments.
Depending on the number and type of tumors, chemoembolization may be used as the sole treatment or combined with other treatment options such as surgery or radiation. Chemoembolization can also be repeated several times over the course of treatment.
In this type of embolization, the embolization beads are used to deliver targeted radiation therapy. Millions of radioactive beads, amounting to about half a teaspoon, are injected into the hepatic artery and lodge in the tumors. The radiation delivered by the beads over the next several days travels only a short distance, thereby treating the tumor cells with minimal side effects compared to external beam radiation.
Image from Sirtex SIR-Spheres Pty Ltd.