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
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
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
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.