Ablation is a technique that uses a needle or probe to destroy cancerous cells with heat, cold or chemicals. The needle is inserted into the tumor through the skin and energy is used to kill the tumor without removing it.
These procedures typically involve guiding the needle to the tumor by using a CT scan, MRI or ultrasound. This is called image-guided tumor ablation.
This procedure may be recommended for patients with only a few small tumors that cannot be removed with surgery. One type of ablation is RFA (radiofrequency ablation). This treatment uses a heated probe inside the tumor to kill it. The patient may have RFA done at the same time as surgery. The surgeon places a scope through a small cut. This is called laparoscopic ablation. Or, the surgeon may pass the probe through the patient’s skin. This is called percutaneous ablation.
Another option is to inject highly concentrated alcohol or acetic acid into the tumor to kill the cancer cells. This is called ethanol or acetic acid ablation. Because only small amounts of ethanol can be used, this treatment works best for small tumors. For this procedure, the doctor inserts a needle through the skin and injects ethanol into the tumor. This is called percutaneous ethanol ablation. RFA ablation has become more commonly done than ethanol or acetic acid ablation.
A third option in some cases is cryoablation or cryotherapy. For this technique, very cold gases are passed through a metal probe inserted into the tumor. It can sometimes be used to treat slightly larger tumors.
Ablation may be a good treatment for people with many smaller tumors. Although these procedures can destroy more than one tumor, they are best for people with small tumors.