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How does radiofrequency ablation treat liver cancer?

In radiofrequency ablation (RFA) for treating liver cancer, radio waves help destroy the cancer cells by heating them to a very high temperature. RFA is best for small tumors. This procedure is usually done under general anesthesia. There can be side effects, like pain and fever, but they are usually mild. Microwave ablation is like RFA, except the energy that heats the tumor is made by microwaves instead of radio waves.

Dr. Dmitri Alden, MD
Surgical Oncologist

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is one of many methods to treat liver cancer. The technique consists of insertion of a special probe into a liver tumor using visual or ultrasound guidance. This is typically done during open or laparoscopic surgery. Occasionally, a transcutaneous approach could be used with a guidance of a CT scan. Once the position of the probe is confirmed, it is deployed and connected to a generator. The generator creates radiofrequency waves, heating the tumor up and destroying cancer cells. The probe could be deployed in various ways so different tumor sizes could be treated. Multiple studies have shown that small tumors under 3 cm are more successfully treated with RFA than larger ones. RFA is a great tool to use when a large liver resection is necessary but might be too dangerous to perform. The recurrence rate of tumors treated with RFA approaches 40% in some studies. Liver resection is still the main method to cure liver cancer. RFA is a great technology to use in properly selected cases, and in experienced hands it offers many benefits in treatment of primary or metastatic liver cancer.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.