With cancer on the rise, there is a constant search for ways to treat it without having to resort to surgery. One such discovery is interventional radiology (IR). This is a sub-specialty of radiology where minimally invasive techniques are used to diagnose and treat diseases in many organs.
Interventional radiology (IR) is used to:
- Manage pain and complications
- Perform biopsies
- Overall symptom management
- Manage metastatic disease
- Image-guided treatment
- Minimally invasive, so less pain and easy recovery
- Improved accuracy compared to an open surgical procedure
IR Procedures: Some of the common IR procedures performed to help manage cancer are listed below with brief descriptions.
- Ablation: Tumor ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that uses extremes of temperature. This procedure can be used to manage symptoms and to treat the tumor. Radiofrequency waves are commonly used and the target organs are lungs, liver, and spine.
- Chemoembolization: A minimally invasive approach, especially for deep-seated cancers such as liver. This involves delivering the chemotherapy directly into the artery which is feeding the cancer. The chemotherapy is also combined with blocking agents known as emboli, which improves the success rate of the attack on the cancer cells.
- Angiography: This procedure involves mapping the blood vessels. This can help identify abnormal enlargement or narrowing of vessels and blockages. This is done by injecting a dye into the blood vessels, which can then be imaged or viewed through an X-ray scanner.
- Biopsies: Thin needles are inserted into the affected organ to remove portions of tissue. This can help in confirming diagnosis, and in cases of very small lesions, even complete removal is possible.
- Pain management: Cancer is notorious for causing bone and joint pains as the growing tumor presses on the surrounding tissues. Where routine pain killers do not work, injections into the joint space are required. IR helps in this area by directing the injections into the appropriate spaces.
- Catheter placement: Where there is need for constant draining of fluids from cancers, IR is used for appropriate placement of catheters.
- Port placement: In patients who need to be given chemotherapy for prolonged periods, ports are placed which act as injection sites without the need for multiple pricks.
What can the patient expect?
- These are done as outpatient procedures, often in the morning
- Do not eat or drink in the morning
- Take your prescription medications with water alone
- Arrange for transport so you can return home as driving is not allowed
- Confirm any other specific instructions or advice with the lab performing this procedure.
The role of IR in managing cancer is only set to expand in the coming years. In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!