Interventional radiology (IR) is the use of radiation (such as x-rays) or other imaging technologies (such as ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging) to diagnose or treat disease. At MMC Cancer Institute, IR offers minimally invasive procedures for diagnosing and treating cancer and cancer-related complications. These procedures are becoming increasingly important in the management of patients with cancer, and MMC Cancer Institute has the largest and most experienced team of doctors in Maine who are specially trained as interventional radiologists.
The MMC Cancer Institute's fellowship-trained interventional radiologists perform some of the most advanced diagnostic and therapeutic procedures currently available in cancer care. In fact, MMC Cancer Institute is the only hospital in the state to offer such a range of procedures, giving patients access to state-of-the-art treatment methods. Many of these procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis or during a short hospital stay, so recovery time is fast and side effects are minimal.
With specialized procedures, experience counts. The more procedures a physician or surgeon performs, the better patient outcomes are. With Maine's most experienced team of interventional radiologists, MMC Cancer Institute demonstrates outstanding patient outcomes on a par with any major medical center in the U.S.
In addition, the MMC Cancer Institute's interventional radiologists are part of a multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists that includes medical, surgical and radiation oncologists, pathologists, nurses, care coordinators and other clinicians. This team meets regularly to review cases, sharing their expertise to create the best plan of care for each patient.
Interventional radiology plays a role in the treatment of various types of cancer, including:
Liver cancer (primary and metastatic)
IR also helps alleviate the pain caused by certain cancers that have metastasized (spread) to the bones without surgery, as well as stabilize bones that have been weakened by metastatic cancer. We treat spine fractures, for example, with cement injection called kyphoplasty or vertebroplasty.
Some diseases have a similar appearance on imaging studies such as a Cat scan. Differentiating between benign (not cancer) and malignant (cancer) conditions is essential for determining the best course of treatment, and IR can help to diagnose or exclude cancer. IR also is used to treat cancer in a number of ways. When a patient requires repeated doses of chemotherapy by injection, for example, doctors may recommend the placement of a port or catheter (flexible tubing) to reduce the number of needle sticks. Interventional radiologists commonly perform image-guided placement of these ports and catheters. This is a less invasive alternative to surgical placement of the devices.
IR can be used to deliver chemotherapy and radiotherapy directly to a tumor via transcatheter chemoembolization. This is particularly useful in patients with primary liver cancer and those with certain types of cancer that have metastasized (spread) to the liver.
IR is used to destroy tumors with radiofrequency energy that uses either heat or a freezing technique that causes the cancerous tissue to die. Both procedures are performed under conscious sedation, and require only an overnight hospital stay.