Twenty years ago, the definitive way to diagnose cancer was through exploratory surgery, a term rarely heard today.
Simple minimally invasive techniques are allowing physicians to obtain the tissue samples they need without open surgery. Now, virtually all cancer patients will see an interventional radiologist during the diagnosis phase of their illness for a biopsy.
Using imaging guidance, Main Line Health interventional radiologists can guide a needle directly into the center of the suspected cancer to obtain cells for biopsy. Patients go home the same day, and from the samples, the pathologist can determine if the suspicious spot is benign or malignant, the type of cancer, and how aggressive it is.
The procedure has several advantages, both for the physician and the patient:
The abnormality can be biopsied while avoiding nearby blood vessels and organs.
Patients are spared the pain, scarring, and complications associated with open surgery.
Recovery times are shorter; patients can more quickly resume normal activities.
Interventional radiology is also starting to play a role in cancer treatment. Chemoembolization is a procedure in which interventional radiologists thread little catheters into a tumor, particularly into the liver, and deliver very high doses of cancer-fighting drugs. Because the drugs go right to the tumor, the patient has very little in the way of systemic side effects, unlike traditional chemotherapy delivered intravenously.
Interventional radiology is only beginning to play a role in the treatment of cancer. New techniques under investigation, such as gene therapy, may improve cancer treatment in the future.
For more information, call 1.866.CALL.MLH.