Pancreatic Cancer Overview

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Treating Pancreatic Cancer TOPICS

Ablation or embolization for pancreatic cancer

These treatments destroy tumors, rather than removing them with surgery. They can sometimes be used to help treat cancer that has spread, especially to the liver. But these treatments are very unlikely to cure cancers on their own. They are more likely to be used to help prevent or relieve symptoms, and are often used along with other types of treatment.

These treatments typically do not require a hospital stay. Side effects can include pain, infections, and bleeding inside the body, but serious side effects are not common.

Ablation techniques

These treatments destroy tumors, usually with extreme heat or cold.

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA): In RFA, a probe (like a needle) is put into the tumor. An electric current is then passed through the tip of the probe, which heats the tumor and destroys the cancer cells.

Microwave thermotherapy: This approach is much like RFA except that microwaves are used to heat and destroy the cancer.

Cryosurgery (cryoablation): In cryosurgery, a probe is put right into the tumor to freeze the tissue with liquid nitrogen or liquid carbon dioxide. The area being frozen is destroyed.


During embolization, the doctor injects substances into an artery to try to block the blood flow to cancer cells, causing them to die. This can sometimes be used for tumors that are too large to be treated with ablation. There are 3 main types of embolization:

Arterial embolization: In this procedure a catheter (a thin, flexible tube) is put into an artery through a small cut in the inner thigh and moved up into the artery feeding the tumor. Small particles are then injected into the artery to plug it up.

Chemoembolization: This approach combines embolization with chemotherapy. Most often, this is done by injecting tiny beads that give off a chemo drug. It can also be done by giving chemo through the catheter directly into the artery, then plugging up the artery.

Radioembolization: This technique combines embolization with radiation therapy. This is often done by injecting small radioactive beads (called microspheres) into the artery.

Last Medical Review: 08/01/2014
Last Revised: 02/01/2016