Tumor Ablation​​
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Tumor Ablation​​

At Vascular and Interventional Partners, patients can choose from a number of minimally invasive cancer treatments to shrink or destroy tumors. Our doctors understand the complexities of treating cancer in the liver and other parts of the body, so we offer advanced techniques like tumor ablation to kill tumors and stop or slow the overall progression of disease when surgery isn't an option or is not desired. As experts in minimally invasive cancer care, our team of board-certified interventional oncology specialists have extensive experience in ablating tumors to help improve your overall health and quality of life.

What is Tumor Ablation?

What is Tumor Ablation?

Tumor ablation is a minimally invasive treatment for cancerous tumors of the liver, kidney, lungs, bone and other areas of the body. It works by delivering concentrated energy directly into the tumor to kill it with minimal damage to the surrounding tissues. Tumor ablation is used for patients who do not desire surgery, are not good surgical candidates, or in combination with chemotherapy or radiation. In some cases, your doctor may recommend tumor ablation as a first-line treatment for liver cancers such as hepatocellular carcinoma

How Does Tumor Ablation Work?

Tumor ablation destroys cancer cells by heating or cooling the targeted tissues to toxic levels, causing irreversible damage that induces cell death. Compared to normal, healthy tissues, tumors are generally more sensitive to extreme temperatures, allowing this treatment to kill cancer cells without harming nearby structures. Tumor ablation typically utilizes hyperthermic (heat) or hypothermic (cold) energy to achieve this effect, but the exact technique varies depending on specific devices or technologies.

Hyperthermal ablation uses microwave, radiofrequency, other energy to heat the tumor cells to a high temperature. This increases blood flow and initiates a heat-shock response, causing necrosis of the treated tissues. In contrast, hypothermic ablation destroys cancer cells with cold temperatures, causing ice crystals to form and break down cellular metabolism. With each technique, the rate of cell death can vary depending on factors like tumor size, the amount of energy used and the temperatures reached. Both types of ablation are effective, but your specific diagnosis will help your doctor decide which is best for you.

Tumor Ablation Techniques

Radiofrequency Ablation

Radiofrequency ablation works by creating an electrical current that causes frictional heating of tissue. A probe is placed into a tumor and the tissue is slowly heated to a very high temperature. This technique is effective for small tumors, such as those in the liver.

Microwave Ablation

Microwave ablation uses electromagnetic energy to generate heat. When applied to tissue, it creates an oscillating electromagnetic field that molecules, primarily water, inside of tissue try to align with and this creates heat. A microwave ablation probe is placed into a tumor and emits microwaves directly into the tumor tissue. This causes rapid heating of the tissue which is extremely effective in killing tumor cells. Microwave ablation is most commonly used in patients with liver, lung or kidney tumors. Microwave ablation is very fast, effective and can kill larger tumors than radiofrequency ablation.

Cryoablation

Instead of using heat to destroy tumors, cryoablation freezes tumors. One or several probes are placed into a tumor. Argon gas is circulated through the probe and this cools tumor tissue to extremely low temperatures, causing ice crystals to form in cancer cells, subsequently killing them. Cryoablation spares the structural tissues in an organ. This technique is used with tumors in the kidney, liver, bone or skin cancer. Your doctor can determine if cryoablation is more beneficial than thermal treatments depending on the type, size and location of your tumors.

Is Tumor Ablation Right for Me?

Tumor ablation is a standard treatment for liver tumors that can’t be removed surgically, but it is also used for patients with kidney, lung, prostate, bone or other cancers. Your doctor may recommend this treatment if you meet certain criteria, such as:

  • Your tumors are hard to reach or located near important structures
  • You have small tumors that may be treated as effectively as with surgical removal
  • You have not responded well to chemotherapy or radiation treatments
  • Your tumors have recurred after being surgically removed
  • Your overall health would make surgery too risky

Tumor ablation can increase your longevity and relieve pain with minimal downtime. It is also compatible with other cancer treatments, including radiation therapy, chemotherapy, chemoembolization or surgery, depending on your needs and overall health.

What to Expect During Tumor Ablation

Tumor ablation is minimally invasive and typically performed as an outpatient procedure. The actual treatment time is usually around one hour, but the total procedure time including sedation or anesthesia will take several hours to complete. Whether heat or cold is used to destroy cancer cells, the process begins by inserting a probe (similar to a needle) directly into the tumor, guided by state-of-the-art imaging technology. IV sedation or anesthesia care will be administered. Local anesthesia will also be used to minimize any pain or discomfort at the area of treatment. Once in place, the probe will emit energy that damages the tumor with extreme temperatures, heating or cooling them to induce cell death. During treatment, the target area is closely monitored to reduce damage to the surrounding tissues. Once the entire tumor has been ablated, the probe will be removed and a small bandage will be applied; no stitches are needed.

What to Expect During Tumor Ablation

Tumor Ablation Recovery

Tumor ablation is an outpatient procedure in nearly all patients. You will go home 1- 2 hours after the procedure. You will likely experience some side effects after treatment, including pain, fatigue, or a low-grade fever. These are normal and can usually be managed with rest and Tylenol if needed. Light activity such as walking is recommended starting the day after the procedure, but strenuous activities should be avoided for the next 5 days. You’ll be scheduled for a follow-up CT scan or MRI in one month to ensure the tumor was completely killed and to determine whether any further treatments are needed. Some patients need multiple ablations or other procedures for optimal results.

Contact Us

At Vascular and Interventional Partners, we offer patients in the Phoenix area and far beyond tumor ablation and other minimally invasive treatments for a number of different cancers. Delivered in a more personal office-based setting, you’ll be able to get treated sooner, faster and by experts in the field. If you’re diagnosed with liver or other cancer and want to explore your options, contact us today at (480) 435-9100 to schedule a consultation — our highly credentialed team is ready to help.

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