Interventional radiology (IR) for cancer is a minimally invasive diagnosis and treatment option for patients as an alternative to surgery. Interventional radiology helps Mercy doctors see inside your body to better diagnose and treat cancer. Medical imaging such as CT scans and MRIs are used in combination with minimally invasive procedures that would have required open surgery in the past.
Most interventional radiology procedures use thin, hollow tubes (catheters) that are guided through blood vessels or other pathways to specific places in your body. Tiny tools or treatments are passed through the tube, such as stents, balloons, laser energy, radioactive particles or medications.
Interventional radiology procedures can be combined with other cancer treatments like radiation therapy, chemotherapy or cancer surgery.
Interventional radiology offers several benefits, including:
Mercy offers a wide range of minimally invasive interventional radiology procedures. They help us diagnose and treat cancer or relieve its symptoms. Many interventional oncology procedures are done on an outpatient basis, and you can often go home the same day. Depending on your type of cancer, IR procedures may include one or more of the following.
A needle biopsy involves removing a tiny sample of tissue or fluid for testing. When a thin needle is used, it’s called a fine-needle aspiration biopsy. When a wide needle is used, it’s called a core biopsy. The material that’s removed is tested in a laboratory to find out if cancer cells are present.
Tumor ablation destroys (ablates) tumors and abnormal tissues. It can be done using hot or cold liquids, radiofrequency waves, microwaves and other techniques. Cryosurgery (also called cryoablation) uses cold liquid to freeze and destroy cancer cells.
Embolization shrinks tumors or cuts off their blood supply. One method involves inserting tiny beads into blood vessels that feed cancer, blocking the vessels and suffocating tumors. Beads can also be injected directly into tumors to deliver chemotherapy (chemoembolization) or radioactive material (radioembolization). Embolization is used to treat some liver and kidney cancers and many noncancerous conditions.
Kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty are used to treat spine fractures caused by tumors or other cancers. During vertebroplasty, bone cement is injected into a collapsed vertebra. During kyphoplasty, a small balloon is inserted and inflated in the vertebra, creating space for the bone cement. Kyphoplasty can be combined with radiofrequency ablation to heat and destroy spinal tumors while reinforcing vertebrae.
Paracentesis is used to treat a cancer complication called ascites. The condition occurs when fluid builds up in the stomach, causing abdominal swelling. During paracentesis, a needle is used to drain and collect the excess fluid. This helps reduce pain, improve kidney function and relieve shortness of breath.
Venous-access procedures involve placing tubes under the skin, such as ports, PICC lines (peripherally inserted central catheter lines) and catheters. This allows easy access to your veins to draw blood or give treatments. Venous-access procedures also help reduce the number of needle sticks required throughout cancer treatment.
Sometimes tumors grow so large that they block the flow of urine or bile, causing fluid to build up. These blockages can cause pain, infection or even organ failure. Catheters can be used to drain excess fluid or abscesses. Devices like balloons and stents may also be used to expand vessels and keep them open.
It’s a comfort to know Mercy’s experts are by your side on your cancer journey. We’ll provide the expertise and support you need to manage your condition and enjoy a better quality of life.
At Mercy, we offer comprehensive interventional radiology to help diagnose and treat a range of cancers, including: