Doctors treat most cancers with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or some combination of these treatments, depending on the type and stage of a patient's cancer. Interventional radiologists, working together with clinical oncologists, have developed procedures to treat many cancer patients and to improve quality of life. The following interventional procedures for cancer are available at Vascular Institute of Virginia.
Embolization is a procedure that injects substances to try to block or reduce the blood flow to cancer cells. Embolization can be performed on many types of tumors, and/or tumors that have an abundant vascular supply. Based on the patient’s anatomy and specific treatment plan, the procedure can be performed by accessing either the femoral artery, in the groin, or the radial artery, in the wrist. All options and plans will be discussed with the physician during the patient’s initial consult.
This is a minimally invasive surgical method to treat solid cancers. Special probes are used to “burn” or “freeze” cancers without the usual surgery. Computed Tomography (CT), Ultrasound (US) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is used to guide and position the needle probe into the tumor. This requires only a tiny hole, usually less than 3 mm via which the probe is introduced. When the probe is within the tumor it is attached to a generator which “burns” or “freezes” the cancer.
The effectiveness of this technique in treating cancer depends on two things:
- The size of the tumor
- Its accessibility to the probes
In general, for cancers 3 cm or less and easily accessible percutaneously the aim is to completely kill the cancer. The larger the tumor the more difficult it is to achieve compete cancer death, therefore early treatment is crucial.
The most common cancers treated by this method are lung cancer, liver cancer and kidney (renal) cancer. Other cancers can also be treated provided they are accessible and of appropriate size.
What does “burning” or “freezing” the cancer mean?
Different forms of tumor ablation include:
- Radiofrequency, in which high-frequency electric current is passed through the probe, causing the probe to increase in temperature, which kills the cancer cells.
- Cold (called cryoablation or cryotherapy), in which liquid nitrogen circulates through the probe, freezing the cancer cells.
- Microwave, in which radio waves heat the probe to kills the cancer cells.
Ablation is an effective treatment option for people who:
- Want to avoid conventional surgery
- Are too ill to undergo surgery
- Have a tumor that is too large to be removed surgically
- Have a limited number of tumors that have metastasized (spread from other parts of their body)
Tumor ablation is also effective for reducing a tumor's size so that it can be treated more effectively by chemotherapy or radiation therapy or to improve symptoms.
We can perform a biopsy, tissue or cell sampling, of almost any organ or body part. We send our specimens out to an independent laboratory for testing. Your doctor will receive results in 2-4 days of testing. While we can provide conscious sedation for a patient’s comfort, some biopsies can be performed with just local anesthesia. Common biopsies sites are liver, bone, soft tissue, lymph node, muscle, and kidneys.
Vascular Access: PICC lines
Peripherally Inserted Central Catheters (PICC) are thin, soft, flexible tubes that are placed into a vein in the arm, above the level of the elbow. As opposed to a traditional IV, PICC’s can remain in the body for longer periods of time. Patients can receive a number of medications through a PICC, including chemotherapy.
PICC’s can also be used for blood draws, eliminating the need to stick a patient repeatedly for frequent blood tests. Local anesthesia is used at the insertion site. Sedation is not necessary for the procedure. The tip of the catheter sits just above the right side of the heart. The PICC is sutured to the skin so that it does not slip out
Vascular Access: Chest Ports
This device is a catheter (long, hollow plastic tube) connected to a plastic and metal reservoir. When the catheter is placed in your chest, the catheter tip will be in a large vein in your chest. The port itself will be under the skin of your chest, below your collarbone and above your breast tissue. You will have a thin scar 1 to 2 inches long on your skin. The port and catheter cannot be seen, but you may have a small bulge in your skin where the port is. A port can stay in place for months or even years, if needed. Ports also have a lover risk of infection over time than devices like that stick out of the skin.