Northwestern Medicine doctors looking at images

Cancer therapies and imaging

In partnership with the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, Northwestern Memorial Hospital is proud to be ranked as one of the top 16 cancer programs in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

  • Northwestern Memorial is ranked 1st in both the Chicago Metro Area and in Illinois for the sixth consecutive year, with 11 of its clinical specialties nationally ranked and four in the top 10.

In addition the Lurie Cancer Center is:

  • One of only 47 National Cancer Institutes (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation. NCI is one of the anchors in the nation’s cancer research efforts to fight cancer.
  • A founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), an alliance of 27 of the world's leading cancer centers dedicated to quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of cancer care so that patients can live better lives.

Interventional oncology is a service of Northwestern Radiology at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Treatments

Interventional oncology uses imaging technologies to target tumors, including:

Northwestern Medicine offers minimally invasive angiographic techniques and treatment options at various stages of cancer treatment.

These techniques may be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy and radiation, to prepare the body for receiving an organ transplant, or as palliative care.(link to Palliative Care page)

Our multidisciplinary team works closely with your referring physician to ensure you receive the best treatment to meet your needs, and our clinical nurse coordinators assist you in planning, scheduling and following up after your treatment.

Our interventional oncologists treat patients with bone, kidney, lung and liver tumors to destroy the tumor (ablation) or by blocking blood vessels to cut the tumor off from its blood supply (embolization).

Embolization treatments are primarily used for primary liver cancer, or liver cancer that has metastasized from elsewhere in the body.

As interventional radiologists, specializing in oncology, we use X-ray, ultrasound, fluoroscopy and other imaging techniques to guide your therapy. We utilize the most advanced medical technologies available for our patients to target your disease.

We believe our patients come first. Our team members collaborate to ensure that a treatment plan takes the patient’s medical and emotional need into account as well as quality of life issues and family concerns.

Therapies

Interventional oncology uses several ablative and embolization therapies to selectively target tumors while leaving healthy tissue intact.

Ablation

Ablation offers a non-surgical localized method for shrinking and killing tumor cells with extreme heat, cold, radio waves or microwaves while sparing healthy tissue. It is applied directly to tumors without adversely affecting the patient’s overall health.

Consequently patients often more easily tolerate this outpatient treatment compared to other systemic therapies used to fight cancer. Most patients experience short recovery times and can resume their usual activities in a few days after completing treatment.

Available since the late 1990s, ablation has been shown to be a relatively safe procedure. Because it is a local treatment that does not harm healthy tissue, ablation may be repeated as often as it is needed.

Decreasing a small number of lesions (ideally no larger than 3 to 5 centimeters in size) or treating new tumors as they arise can help alleviate the pain and other debilitating symptoms caused by tumors.

While tumors themselves often are not painful, they may press against nerves or interfere with vital organs, which in turn, can cause pain.

Ablation typically treats patients with tumors of the liver, kidney, adrenal, lung and bones.

Embolization

Embolization shrinks and kills tumor cells by cutting off blood flow to the tumor with coils, particles, foam, plugs or beads. Your physician will use digital subtraction angiography to find the exact location of the tumor and the artery or vein supplying blood to it.

The radiologist then inserts a catheter or wire to deliver an artificial embolus. Because embolization is minimally invasive, it leads to less scarring, faster recovery and low risk of infection.

Embolization is not suitable for everyone and carries the risk of the embolus reaching healthy tissue.

Your care team

Our multidisciplinary team is comprised of board-certified interventional radiologists, registered nurses and a nuclear physicist. We focus on extending your life over the course of disease and improving your quality of life while living with cancer.

We work closely with medical oncologists, transplant surgery, hepatology, surgical oncology, and radiation oncology, as well as your referring physician to ensure you receive the best treatment to meet your needs. Our clinical nurse coordinators assist you in planning, scheduling and following up after your treatment.

Northwestern University achieved Nurse Magnet® Recognition for its high nursing standards, and is listed as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute.

Treatments

Northwestern Memorial Hospital U.S. News & World Report Best National Hospital, Cancer 2017-2018 graphic.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital
Nationally recognized in Cancer (16th)

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