Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is an exciting approach to treating cancer within several organs of the body, including the liver, kidneys, lungs, and bone. While surgery to remove these tumors is often the preferred treatment, many patients have disease that is too widespread or other medical conditions that make surgery risky or difficult. In addition, other patients have tumors that have recurred or have not responded to conventional therapies. These are the patients that have been shown to benefit from RFA, which has grown safer and more effective in recent years.
The benefits of RFA include preserving uninvolved liver tissue, causing potentially fewer systemic complications and side-effects than chemotherapy, and avoiding the potential risk of major surgery.
During these procedures, a needle-like probe is inserted through the skin and into the organ containing the tumor being treated. This probe is used to generate heat within the tumor and it is this heat which produces destruction (necrosis) of the tumor. In most studies, more than half of the liver tumors treated by RFA do not recur. Most patients spend a night in the hospital for observation after RFA and many return to their usual activities within a few days.