- How is liver cancer treated?
- Liver cancer surgery
- Tumor ablation for liver cancer
- Embolization therapy for liver cancer
- Radiation therapy for liver cancer
- Targeted therapy for liver cancer
- Chemotherapy for liver cancer
- Clinical trials for liver cancer
- Complementary and alternative therapies for liver cancer
- Treatment of liver cancer by stage
- More treatment information about liver cancer
Tumor ablation for liver cancer
Ablation refers to treatments that destroy liver tumors without removing them. These techniques are often used in patients with no more than a few small tumors but for whom surgery is not a good option (often because of poor health or reduced liver function). They are less likely to cure the cancer than surgery, but they can still be very helpful for some people. These treatments are also sometimes used to treat cancers in patients waiting for a liver transplant.
Ablation is best used for tumors no larger than about 3 cm across. For slightly larger tumors (3 to 5 cm across), it may be used along with embolization (see next section).
This type of treatment typically does not require a hospital stay.
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA)
This procedure uses high-energy radio waves for treatment. The doctor inserts a thin, needle-like probe through the skin and into the tumor, guiding it into place with ultrasound or CT scans. A high-frequency current is then passed through the tip of the probe, which heats the tumor and destroys the cancer cells. This is a common treatment method for small tumors.
Ethanol (alcohol) ablation
This is also known as percutaneous ethanol injection (PEI). In this procedure, concentrated alcohol is injected directly into the tumor to kill cancer cells. This is usually done through the skin using a needle guided by ultrasound or CT scans.
In this newer procedure, microwaves are used to heat and destroy the abnormal tissue.
This procedure destroys a tumor by freezing it using a thin metal probe. The probe is guided through the skin and into the tumor by ultrasound. Then very cold gasses are passed through the probe to freeze the tumor, killing the cancer cells. This method may be used to treat larger tumors than the other ablation techniques, but it sometimes requires general anesthesia (where you are deeply asleep and not able to feel pain).
Side effects of ablation therapy
Possible side effects after ablation therapy include abdominal pain, infection in the liver, and bleeding into the chest cavity or abdomen. Serious complications are uncommon, but they are possible.
Last Medical Review: 06/21/2012
Last Revised: 01/18/2013