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Published on April 17, 2017

Interventional radiologists: A key partner in cancer treatment

Most cancers are treated with some combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery. Interventional radiologists at Gundersen Health System can also offer your patients a number of minimally invasive procedures to treat cancer.

"Using the latest advances in digital imaging and minimally invasive technology, we are able to deliver targeted and precise treatment of solid tumors in almost all organs of the body. We also assist in diagnosing cancer and helping patients manage symptoms to improve their quality of life," explains Gundersen interventional radiologist Ezana Azene, MD, PhD.

Ezana Azene, MD, PhD, Gundersen Interventional Radiology

Ezana Azene, MD, PhD, Gundersen Interventional Radiology

The following interventional radiology procedures are available at Gundersen:

  • Tumor ablation uses extreme temperatures to destroy cancer cells or slow their growth. Used to treat cancer in bone, lung, liver, kidney and other soft tissues.
  • Chemoembolization treats primary or metastatic liver tumors by delivering chemotherapy medication directly into the tiny hepatic arteries that supply the tumor. These tiny arteries are then plugged with an embolic agent. This helps keep the chemotherapy in the liver and also cuts off blood to the cancerous tumor.
  • Radioembolization is a non-surgical technique, similar to chemoembolization, that injects radioactive beads into primary or metastatic liver tumors via the hepatic artery. The radiation destroys the tumor cells from within the tumor, with little impact to the surrounding healthy liver tissue.
  • Photodynamic therapy treats cancerous tumors by combining a drug that makes cancer cells sensitive to light with a laser catheter that emits non-heating, visible light directly within the tumor. The light triggers a chemical reaction within the drug that destroys tumor cells while limiting damage to normal tissue.
  • Portal vein embolization induces growth on one side of the liver before a planned hepatic resection on the other side. This allows surgeons to remove all of the cancerous tissue while leaving enough healthy tissue behind to preserve liver function. It is commonly used prior to liver resection for primary liver cancer and colorectal cancer metastases.
  • Needle biopsies use X-ray, ultrasound or another imaging technique to guide a needle into the tumor and take a small sample of tissue. Many cancers are now diagnosed by needle biopsy.
  • Vascular ports are long-term, central venous access devices implanted completely beneath the skin surface. Ports minimize the number of needle pricks that patients undergo for chemotherapy or routine blood work. Ports can be safely left in place for many months or even years. When no longer needed, they are quickly and easily removed.

Because no large incisions are made, most interventional radiology procedures are faster, less risky and require shorter hospital stays than traditional open surgery. In fact, many procedures, including all of those listed above, are now offered as outpatient appointments.

"While curative treatment is not always possible, we can help to prolong life and alleviate pain and other symptoms that occur during cancer treatment. This includes relieving obstructions, reducing tumor burden, placing catheters so patients can drain excess fluids at home, ablation of tumors to treat pain and stabilizing patients before definitive organ transplant," says Dr. Azene.

To make a referral or to ask questions, contact Interventional Radiology via MedLink at (800) 336-5465. In La Crosse, call (608) 775-5465. For a complete list of conditions treated, visit our Interventional Radiology website.

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Every day, Gundersen Health System delivers great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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