Akash Saxena, 55, was diagnosed with liver cancer and a transplant
would have cost him Rs 17-18 lakh (Rs 1.7-1.8 million). It was at
this point that he got to know about Interventional Radiology (IR)
which saved his life.
"I took two sittings of chemoembolization at an interval of 6-8
weeks and I started feeling better physically. Thereafter, the
cancer was treated without much pain either," Saxena, a South
Delhi resident, told IANS.
Chemoembolization is a minimally invasive treatment for liver
cancer. Under this therapy, the maximum dose of chemotherapy is
given to tumor cells and the toxic effect of chemotherapy is
minimal. Thousands of patients in India who are diagnosed with
life-threatening diseases like spinal tumor; liver, lung or
prostate cancer, stroke and uterine fibroids often require painful
invasive surgeries and chemotherapy as part of their treatment.
Now, interventional treatments - which are also proving to be
cost-effective and less painful - offer a new lease of life to
hundreds of such patients.
In a country like India, where people are diagnosed with serious
diseases every three minutes, while one dies of the disease every
13 minute, these practices are gaining popularity, mostly in big
cities. The practice is very common in western countries, doctors
Interventional Radiology is a sub-speciality of radiology and
utilizes minimally-invasive therapy to diagnose and treat diseases
in almost all organs, usually as an alternative to traditional
"The practice is a rapidly growing area of medicine for treating a
wide variety of disorders and diseases and is playing a role in
developing new techniques that may improve cancer treatment,
including the use of magnetic particles to draw cancer-killing
agents into tumours; and the delivery of genetic material, called
gene therapy, to fight or prevent cancers," Pradeep Muley, senior
consultant and Interventional Radiologist at Fortis Hospital, told
It is also used to treat blockages inside arteries and veins, to
block off blood vessels that nourish tumors, destroy malignant
tumors using focused heat and freezing, drain blocked organ
systems such as the liver, gallbladder and kidney and perform
biopsies that would otherwise require surgical exploration.
Muley said that these are generally easier for the patient because
it involves no incisions, carries less risk, causes minimum pain,
is very cost effective and usually has shorter recovery times.
Stating that there has been a 25 percent increase in patients
opting for this treatment and is expected to rise 300 percent in
coming years, Muley said that 98 percent of the patients, however,
still opt for surgery even in conditions like fibroids and
adenomyosis where removing the uterus is not required at all.
"I must say people in India are still not aware of the treatment,"
Interventional radiology first evolved in the 1960s when
angioplasty procedures were developed to treat blockages in
arteries as an alternative to open surgical bypass.
Since then, the ability of interventional radiology techniques to
treat an ever-expanding list of conditions continues to grow.
Similar to Interventional Radiology, Interventional Neuroradiology
(neurology), used in diagnosing and treating serious diseases
related to the head, neck and spine is also becoming a popular
practise in the country, doctors said.
"The practice is very significant in treating various conditions.
Interventional neuroradiology plays a critical role in dealing
with cerebrovascular diseases and strokes and treating them using
minimally-invasive procedures," Vipul Gupta, head of Neurovascular
Interventional Center at Institute of Neurosciences in Medanta the
Medicity, told IANS.
"It also avoids long term damage that may occur during open
surgeries and is highly cost-effective too," he said.
Every year, over 1,000 patients - the highest in north India -
undergo treatment through this procedure at the institute. The
trend is also gaining recognition in other major cities across
India, the doctor said.
Gupta said though the practice is gaining recognition both among
the patients and medical community in the country, it is still at
the initial stages.
He said about 80 percent of patients across Europe, and about 70
percent of patients in the US prefer this treatment over open
surgeries, while in India, the majority of patients still undergo
But it is slowly gaining popularity.
"The issue is that there are very few properly trained
professionals in the country. Also, the awareness among the
patients is low and there is lack of an appropriate setup and
equipment. But I am sure it will soon become very popular in India
too. After all, it is cost-effective and less painful," Gupta
(Haris Zargar can be contacted at email@example.com)