/ Cancer (Oncology) / Radio Frequency Ablation

Radio Frequency Ablation

One of the advanced technologies for treatment of cancer is the RFA or Radio frequency ablation. This technique makes use of heat that is generated by radio waves to destroy (ablate) cancer cells completely. A probe is inserted into the skin, which goes all the way into the tumor. This probe generates electrical current that heats up the cancer cells and destroys them.
Although RFA is not the main treatment for cancer, it can be used as a combination with the other treatments in case of cancers such as:
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Primary liver cancer
  • Primary lung cancer
  • Secondary cancer in the liver
  • Secondary cancer in the lung
RFA may be recommended in cases where there are multiple tumors and where the position of the cancer makes it difficult to conduct a surgery. It can also work in cases where the patients cannot be given general anesthesia. RFA works well on small cancers where in the tumor size is less than 5 cm. For larger treatments multiple sessions may be required.
How it works?
  • A sedative with a local anesthetic or general anesthesia would be given depending upon the doctor’s decision
  • An ultrasound scan or a CT scan would be done after this. This will guide the surgeon or the radiologist to insert the probe into the skin and direct it into the tumor. The probe used would be a very fine one measuring a width of 1 to 2 millimeters only. Several RFA probes may be used in case of multiple tumors.
  • The heat would be adjusted as per the size of the cancer. The current is then passed through the probe which generates heat in a controlled and precise manner, destroying the cancer cells. 

The duration of this procedure may vary from case to case. It could be anywhere between a half an hour to a couple of hours.
Side effects of RFA
RFA is a minimally invasive procedure that is associated with very mild side effects. These include:
  • Mild pain or discomfort at the area that has been treated
  • Slight raise in temperature
  • Infection
These side effects however are rare and temporary in nature. They will disappear within a few days.
Preparing for RFA
The doctor will usually give all the instructions on how to prepare for RFA during the consultation session. It is advisable to inform the doctor about any allergies, medical conditions, recent illnesses, and about any medications you might be taking.

If you are on blood thinners, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or aspirin, you may be asked to stop taking them about a week before your procedure. Do not eat or drink anything on the day of the procedure. Wear comfortable and loose clothing and leave your jewelry at home. Be prepared for an overnight stay in the hospital if the doctor says so.
What to Expect after RFA?
In most cases the patients would be discharged the same day after RFA. Pain medications may be prescribed for a few days. In about a week you should return to normalcy.
Follow-up tests would be recommended to ensure there are no complications after the procedure. It is important to follow the doctor’s instructions to the tee to make sure you don’t end up with a secondary cancer or a relapse.
Results of RFA
Radio Frequency Ablation is comparatively a new treatment. Its long term results are yet to be established. However, for certain types of cancer the research results look really promising.

Nevertheless, it is one of the safest treatments for cancer with minimal complications or side effects.
Consult your doctor and find out if RFA would be suitable for you. He might be able to give you complete information, while clarifying all your queries.