Ablation is a procedure which uses extreme temperatures to treat cancer. Thermal ablation uses needle probes that deliver heat to destroy cancer cells. Cryoablation uses needle probes that freeze cancer cells.

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Answers to Your Questions about Ablation Procedures for Cancer

Ablation is a procedure which uses extreme temperatures to treat cancer. Thermal ablation uses needle probes that deliver heat to destroy cancer cells. Cryoablation uses needle probes that freeze cancer cells.

How it Works

Ablation procedures are minimally invasive. Imaging guidance is used to accurately target cancer. The needle probe(s) are placed, then heat or cold is utilized to destroy the cancer cells. There are different types of ablation, which include radiofrequency ablation (RFA), microwave ablation (MWA) and cryoablation. RFA and MWA are heat-based thermal ablation systems, and cryoablation uses extreme cold for ablation. The type of ablation used will depend on the type and location of cancer, as well as other individual factors.

Why it’s Done

Dependent on the extent of an individual’s cancer, the goal of this treatment may be for a cure or for symptomatic relief. Ablation can be curative in cancers that are relatively small in size and have not spread elsewhere. It can also treat cancers that have recurred in the same place after treatment. Ablation can also help to manage pain or bleeding caused by cancer.

Ablation can be performed in many different cancers, including those found within the liver, kidney, lung and bone.

Post-procedural side effects may include pain, fever, bleeding and feeling tired. Long-term side effects vary based on individual factors, such as the location and type of cancer.

Thermal ablation is a first-line treatment and an effective alternative to surgery. In select candidates, ablation has clinical success rates comparable to surgical resection. Patients who are not surgical candidates may still be candidates for minimally invasive ablation.

What happens during the procedure?

The procedure is performed in the interventional radiology procedure suite. Moderate sedation or anesthesia support is used, depending on procedure and individual factors. Imaging guidance with CT or ultrasound is used to find and target the cancer. Using imaging guidance, a single or multiple needle probes are inserted into the cancer lesion, and ablation is performed. The procedure typically takes between one to three hours. 

What is the recovery process like?

After the procedure, most patients are monitored for a few hours prior to discharge. Most patients are able to return home the same day. We recommend light activity only for the first few days after your procedure. Most patients are able to resume all normal activities within one to two weeks post-procedure.

What are the next steps?

After the procedure, a clinic visit will be scheduled with your interventional radiology physician. Your physician will evaluate your post-procedural symptoms and may order blood tests or imaging to assess the treatment response. Based on the test results, he or she will discuss the next steps.

Success rates depend on a variety of factors including location and size of cancer. In patients with potentially curable disease, studies have shown greater than 90% chances of a complete response. Five-year survival rates for liver cancer approach 70% and greater than 90% for kidney cancer.

Why UC Health

Experience and Expertise

Comprehensive Cancer Care

Primary cancer treatments can cause significant side effects. With one of the largest survivorship and supportive services programs in the region, we believe in complimentary, holistic care that enhances overall wellbeing and quality of life.

Multidisciplinary Care

Curing cancer is a puzzle best solved when the brightest experts work together to form the best treatment plan possible, not only in this procedure, but in all aspects of cancer treatment.

The Academic Difference

As an academic medical center, our focus is providing excellent care based on clinical experience and medical research. Our goal is to provide the best treatment options for you, whether it be ablation or other directed therapies.

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Referring Physicians: Success and Provider Toolbox

We are committed to providing optimal care to your patient and open communication with you. We understand that as a referring physician, you need to be kept informed on your patient’s progress. That’s why we set up a toolbox to share detailed information about your patient’s health with you.

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