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What Is Interventional Oncology and Is It Right for Me?

At IVC, our medical experts specialize in minimally invasive and effective therapies that can help you restore your quality of life without excessive downtime or pain. Interventional oncology is an emerging and invaluable subspecialty of vascular and interventional radiology that allows us to treat early or late-stage tumors, including those resulting from liver cancer. Our specialists are trained in and up-to-date with the latest developments in this rapidly advancing field of medicine, providing you with the newest developments in cancer treatment to help you get back to enjoying your life as quickly as possible.

The Pillars of Oncology

Oncology is a field of medicine that focuses on the study and treatment of tumors. Primarily used in cancer treatment, oncology has traditionally consisted of three main pillars: medical treatment, radiation treatment and surgical treatment. While these core pillars of oncology can successfully treat malignant (cancerous) tumors and result in improvement or even remission of the disease, not every patient sees optimal results with their treatment or is a candidate for the types of treatment that currently exist.

Medical oncology is comprised of chemotherapy and other medicated forms of cancer treatment. Chemotherapy is often a core component of cancer treatment but may prove ineffective or not achieve the desired results for some patients. Radiation oncology focuses on radioactive therapies that break down cancer cells by targeting them at the atomic level. Radiation treatment may be directed externally or internally, depending on the patient’s needs. Surgical oncology directly addresses cancerous tumors by surgically removing them or by replacing the cancerous organ using organ transplants. While effective, surgical oncology depends not only on the patient being healthy enough for surgery but also on the availability of donor organs.

Interventional oncology is a relatively new branch of cancer treatment that has quickly developed to become a welcomed addition to the pillars of oncology. By using cutting-edge minimally invasive techniques, this subspecialty allows for the treatment of tumors that may not be accessible by other means. Interventional oncology can also supplement other therapies to provide comprehensive cancer treatment, increasing the patient’s chance at successful remission.

Interventional Oncology Role in Treating Liver Cancer

At IVC, we use interventional oncology to treat hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common form of liver cancer, as well as other types of liver tumors. With our advanced treatment methods, we can target HCC, primary liver cancer and metastatic cancer that has spread to the liver using catheter-directed therapies and ablation treatments. If you have been diagnosed with liver cancer and are interested in exploring all of your available treatment options, schedule a consultation at IVC to learn how we can help you.

The first step of any type of oncological treatment is always diagnosis. Some common symptoms of liver cancer to look out for include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Chronic upper abdominal pain
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Persistent stomach bloating or swelling

If you have begun to notice any of the above symptoms, contact your primary care physician immediately. With the help of your doctor, any potential liver cancer can be detected using blood tests, CT scans, MRI scans, ultrasounds and biopsies. At IVC, our vascular and interventional radiologists are capable of performing liver biopsies to help you diagnose your health issues. During a biopsy, a small sample of your liver is removed and tested for the presence of any cancerous cells.

Once any liver cancer has been detected, you will need to move forward with treatment that utilizes a multidisciplinary team from several different fields of medicine for the best chance at success. Our specialists provide invaluable therapies that can supplement your chemotherapy and traditional cancer treatments, or even serve as your primary treatment if other options are not suitable for you. At IVC, we offer chemoembolization, radioembolization and percutaneous tumor ablation for our liver cancer patients.

Chemoembolization

Chemoembolization avoids the painful and debilitating side effects common with other liver cancer treatments by delivering medication directly to your tumors. During this minimally invasive procedure, a catheter is inserted through either your wrist or your groin and directed to the artery that supplies blood and nutrients to your tumor. Chemotherapeutic drugs designed to destroy cancer cells are then passed through the catheter to directly target the disease at its source, minimizing harm to any surrounding healthy tissue.

With this advanced therapy, cancer drugs are much more effective and side effects are limited, helping you receive the treatment you need while minimizing damage to your healthy cells. An embolic agent is also delivered alongside the medicine, further localizing the treatment to where it is needed most. As a result, the dosage of the medicine used can be increased tenfold to drastically reduce the size of your tumor more quickly.

Radioembolization (Y90)

Radioembolization is an advanced treatment method that combines the benefits of embolization and radiation in one cohesive therapy. Radioembolization is also minimally invasive and catheter-directed but relies on radiation treatment rather than medical treatment. This procedure is not curative in nature and instead focuses on improving your quality of life or life expectancy. During the procedure, a catheter is navigated to your liver’s arteries through a small incision in your groin. Tiny radioactive beads are then deposited in your hepatic (liver) arteries to target and break down the cancerous cells.

Radioembolization is typically utilized for patients in the later stage of their disease, as it does not actively cure or completely eliminate cancer. It can provide relief from painful and uncomfortable symptoms, however, allowing you to enjoy your life without the constant reminder of your disease. Radioembolization can also be used to shrink tumors to a size that will enable surgical intervention, helping patients whose tumors may have been deemed inoperable. Patients who undergo radioembolization can return to normal activities almost immediately, although fatigue is an expected side effect for one to four weeks.

Percutaneous Thermal Ablation of Tumors

Percutaneous (through the skin) tumor ablation is performed using either heat or cold to destroy cancer cells. This method of cancer treatment can be performed under multiple different procedures, including radiofrequency ablation, cryoablation, thermal ablation and microwave ablation. During percutaneous tumor ablation, probes are inserted through your skin and into your tumor to deliver targeted heat or cold that can eliminate cancer cells. This type of therapy has minimal side effects and can treat multiple small tumors during the same procedure.

Percutaneous tumor ablation may be combined or performed alongside surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, chemoembolization and other cancer therapies to help you combat your disease from every angle. The procedure has much less discomfort than surgery and can be repeated as necessary should any of your tumors recur. With a success rate greater than 85 percent for completely eliminating small liver tumors, this advanced therapy can provide powerful supplemental cancer treatment with minimal drawbacks for the right patient.

Can My Liver Cancer Be Treated Using Interventional Oncology?

Interventional oncology is increasingly becoming a staple of comprehensive cancer treatment for patients everywhere. Determining if you are a good candidate for chemoembolization, radioembolization or percutaneous tumor ablation requires an accurate assessment of your disease and a proper diagnosis by qualified professionals. Tests will first need to be performed to rule out other causes of your symptoms and conclude if your issues stem from HCC or different forms of liver cancer.

Once the source of your symptoms has been identified, our vascular and interventional radiologists will then need to decide which, if any, of our minimally invasive liver cancer treatments can prove useful in treating your disease. Through discussion with your surgeon, oncologist and other members of your multidisciplinary care team, we can help craft an individualized treatment plan that takes advantage of the latest advancements in interventional oncology to fill in the gaps of your treatment.

If your surgeon has determined your tumor to be inoperable, for instance, we may be able to use radioembolization to shrink it down in size and make surgery a viable treatment option for you. Chemoembolization may be used to provide effective treatment without painful side effects or a long recovery for patients who are too sick or elderly for other treatment methods. Percutaneous tumor ablation can be used if your tumors are too small or difficult to reach using other remedies. As a whole, interventional oncology is designed to get you back to enjoying your life as soon as possible using minimally invasive treatments that are as effective as possible.

IVC: A Valuable Member of Your Multidisciplinary Team

If the progression of your liver cancer has left you feeling hopeless, defeated or without options, let the experts and compassionate staff at IVC show you how interventional oncology can change your life. Call us today at 503-612-0498 to schedule a consultation and determine if any of our cutting-edge therapies are right for you. We look forward to helping you.

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