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Radiofrequency ablation for liver cancer

What is radiofrequency ablation?

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a localized cancer treatment that uses high-energy radio waves to heat and destroy cancerous cells.

During RFA, a thin, needle-like probe is temporarily inserted into a tumor through a tiny incision in the skin, using CT scan or ultrasound guidance. The probe then releases electrodes that heat and destroy cancer cells. RFA may be used to treat tumors when surgery is not an option or to relieve other symptoms related to cancer treatment.

RFA for liver cancer

RFA has become a major treatment method for small tumors. This technique may offer faster, more targeted liver cancer treatment with fewer side effects and shorter hospital stays compared with standard therapies.

Other forms of ablation therapy include the following:

  • Cryoablation: Cryoablation uses extreme cold to destroy cancer cells. Guided by ultrasound imaging, your doctor will place the cryoprobe (metal probe) containing liquid nitrogen directly onto liver tumors. The cryoprobe destroys the tumor by freezing it. Cryoblation may be used to treat larger tumors than the other ablation techniques, and it sometimes requires general anesthesia.
  • Percutaneous alcohol ablation: Also known as percutaneous ethanol injection (PEI), this procedure uses concentrated alcohol to kill cancer cells. Similar to the other ablation techniques, pure alcohol is directly injected into the tumor through the skin using a needle guided by ultrasound or CT scans, or during an open surgical procedure. Side effects after percutaneous alcohol ablation therapy are uncommon, but may include abdominal pain, liver infection and bleeding into the chest cavity or abdomen.
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