Interventional Oncology is a subspecialty of Interventional Radiology that serves as an adjunct to traditional Oncology services. The minimally invasive, image-guided techniques performed by Interventional Radiologists aid in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
These innovative advances provide additional options for patients and the team of healthcare providers involved in their care.
What is Oncology?
Oncology is the study and treatment of tumors. The field of Oncology has traditionally had three areas of focus: medical therapy, surgical therapy, and radiation therapy.
- A medical oncologist uses chemotherapy and other medications to treat cancers.
- A surgical oncologist removes the cancerous tissue during an operation.
- A radiation oncologist treats cancer by using external radiation therapy.
- A new area of focus is Interventional Oncology.
What is different about Interventional Oncology?
Interventional Radiologists utilize imaging guidance, like CT and ultrasound, to perform minimally invasive procedures to diagnose and treat cancer. They can zero in on the cancerous tumor and through a pinprick in the skin, take a sample of the tissue and then destroy the tumor from the inside out. Procedures, like image-guided biopsies and other targeted therapies, are becoming more available to patients with less risks than other more invasive options.
What types of treatment does Interventional Oncology offer?
There are several types of treatment available:
- Thermal ablation procedures involve inserting a thin probe through the skin directly into the tumor to treat the tissue with extremes of temperature. The tumor can be destroyed by methods including microwave, radiofrequency, or cryoablation. These methods allow for the destruction of cancerous cells while sparing healthy tissue. Patients can avoid a major invasive surgery.
- Chemoembolization involves inserting a small tube into the blood vessels that supply the tumor and delivering chemotherapy medications directly that area. Once the chemotherapy has been delivered, additional agents are then administered to stop the flow of blood to the tumor. This allows for a highly concentrated dose of medication to be delivered directly to the site of the tumor while minimizing most of the systemic side effects.
- Radioembolization, like chemoembolization, involves inserting a small tube into the blood vessels that supply the tumor. This therapy entails delivery of a radiopharmaceutical, Yttrium-90, or Y-90, to the site of the tumor. The high dose of radiation therapy causes localized destruction of cancer while sparing the surrounding healthy tissues.
What are the benefits of Interventional Oncology procedures?
There are many benefits associated with minimally invasive image-guided procedures in the category of Interventional Oncology. For patients with inoperable tumors or health risks that limit their ability to undergo traditional surgery, the advances in Interventional Oncology techniques provide safer alternatives. The minimally invasive approaches decrease the risks associated with larger procedures and allow for a more rapid recovery. The minimally invasive nature of these procedures often allows these procedures to be done on an outpatient basis or with a limited hospital stay for observation. Lastly, the local approach to therapy minimizes the systemic side effects and complications compared to those experienced with systemic chemotherapy, open surgery, and external beam radiation therapy. Care of Oncology patients is complex and highly individualized. That is why a patient’s doctor will often refer the patient to an Interventional Oncologist as part of their multidisciplinary care team.
What else can Interventional Radiologists do?
There is more to cancer than simply diagnosis and treatment– there’s living with the cancer, too. Interventional Oncology procedures can help improve the life of cancer patients in a multitude of ways, including placement of IV access to allow for safe delivery of chemotherapy, drainage of fluid collections to reduce discomfort, treatment of chronic pain using targeted injections, and treatment of bone fractures caused by metastases to the bones of the spine.
Interventional Oncology, a subspecialty of Interventional Radiology, has achieved exciting advances over the past several years and will continue to change the face of cancer treatment for physicians, their patients, and the larger medical community. For more information about the services available through Virginia Interventional and Vascular Associates please visit www.vivarichmond.com or call (804) 486-4625.