What is interventional oncology and how is it different from chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery?

Interventional oncology (IO) is an exciting area of interventional radiology that focuses on minimally invasive techniques for the treatment of various cancers.  For most patients, a diagnosis of cancer leads to treatment by a medical oncologist who administers intravenous chemotherapy, a surgeon who cuts the tumor out, or a radiation oncologist who uses external radiation to kill the cancer.  

In IO, an interventional radiologist advances a catheter to the tumor through a small puncture in the groin or wrist. Through the catheter, the IR is able to deliver various treatments that act directly on the tumors without affecting the rest of the body.  Other treatment options include placing a small needle directly into a tumor using ultrasound or CT scan and then "cooking" or "freezing" a tumor until it dies. All of these procedures involve no incisions and can often be done as an outpatient or involve a single overnight hospital stay. 

Since IR is a field of medicine based on advanced technology, it is mind boggling to imagine what interventional radiologists will be able to treat in the future as we are only scratching the surface of cancer care.

Deepak Sudheendra, MD, RPVI