Pancreatic Cancer

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Treating Pancreatic Cancer TOPICS

Ablative techniques for pancreatic cancer

When a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor has spread to other sites, the metastases can be removed by surgery and by other techniques as well. By treating metastases, symptoms can improve and the patient might live longer. These techniques are most often used to treat cancer that has spread to the liver. Sometimes these treatments are also used to treat areas of metastases from pancreatic exocrine cancer when there are only a few of them.

Radiofrequency ablation: In radiofrequency ablation (RFA), a probe (like a needle) is inserted into the tumor. Radiofrequency waves travel through the probe to heat and destroy the tumor.

Microwave thermotherapy: This procedure is similar to RFA, except microwaves are used to heat and destroy the abnormal tissue.

Cryosurgery: In cryosurgery, a probe is inserted into the tumor which freezes the tissue with liquid nitrogen or liquid carbon dioxide. The area being frozen is destroyed. This technique is also known as cryoablation.

Embolization: For an embolization procedure, a catheter is used to find the artery feeding the tumor. Usually the catheter is inserted into a blood vessel in the groin, and then threaded up to the small artery that feeds the tumor. Contrast dye may need to be injected into the catheter to find the right artery. Then a substance is injected into the blood vessel, cutting off the blood supply to the tumor. This kills the tumor.

When the substance injected is plain, tiny beads (called microspheres), the procedure is known as transarterial embolization or TAE. If radioactive beads are used, it is called radioembolization. This treatment delivers radiation to the tumor as well as cutting off the tumor’s blood supply. Sometimes chemotherapy drugs are injected into the artery feeding the tumor just before the beads are injected. This is called transarterial chemoembolization or TACE.

Last Medical Review: 01/28/2013
Last Revised: 02/05/2014