The Fourth Pillar of Cancer Care
Interventional oncology is considered the fourth pillar of cancer care, the others being surgical, radiation and medical oncology. It involves diagnosing and treating cancer using minimally invasive procedures with imaging guidance. Saad Hussain, MD, an interventional radiologist, specializes in this unique practice and shares his insights on how the technology is used.
Q: What are the advantages of this type of treatment?
Interventional oncology allows patients with cancer to receive lifesaving treatments using minimally invasive techniques, which have proven to be less dangerous than traditional surgical methods. Specifically, using imaging guidance, physicians are able to target tumors with small skin incisions and without the need for large surgeries. As interventional oncology is at the forefront of medical enhancement, new and emerging techniques are currently being researched.
Q: What types of therapies are available?
One such treatment includes embolization of tumors, where small catheters and wires are navigated into the blood vessels supplying a tumor and substances are injected into the tumor to destroy it. Another example is ablation, where under imaging guidance, a probe is advanced through the skin and into a tumor. This probe either cools down (cryoablation) or heats up to extreme temperatures (microwave or radiofrequency ablation) to destroy the tumor.
Q: What types of cancer respond best to this type of treatment?
Currently, many liver, kidney, lung, colorectal, bone, soft tissue and metastatic cancers can respond well to ablation or embolization. It can also be a good option for patients whose cancer cannot be removed surgically, or if chemotherapy is not an option. The goal is to improve patients’ quality of life by reducing or eliminating the need for invasive surgery. As a result, many patients can receive treatment as an outpatient or just require a one-night stay.
Q: Does interventional oncology include other disciplines?
Interventional oncology relies heavily on image guidance and inherently requires expertise in radiology. Nearly all interventional oncology procedures are performed by an interventional radiologist who is a radiologist by training, but further specializes in image-guided procedures. Oftentimes, interventional oncology treatments are used in conjunction with traditional chemotherapy or surgery.
Individual results may vary. There are risks associated with any surgical procedure. Talk with your doctor about these risks to find out if minimally invasive surgery is right for you.