December 28, 2005
Cancer is one of the most dreaded words for a patient to hear. It usually brings to the imagination a certain and painful death with no hope of long-term survival or a life with any quality. Although the cure for cancer is still some years away, over the last decade the medical and surgical fields have made real progress in developing treatments that can help patients live with a high quality of life for many years after they have cancer. One of these new treatments for holding liver cancer and tumors in check that has shown promise is called radiofrequency ablation.
What is radiofrequency ablation?
This is the newest tool available to doctors to kill (or ablate) tumors in the liver. It uses actual radio waves that vibrate at a certain speed (or frequency) that are aimed directly at the cancer cells to kill them. The radio waves are given off by a special probe that has been designed so that the rest of the body is not harmed by these cancer-killing waves.
How is the probe that gives off the radio waves and kills the cancer cells inserted into the tumor?
It is important that the probe be placed directly into the cancerous tumor so that it kills only the cancer cells and not surrounding healthy tissue. The most common way to do that is to take the patient to the operating room and place them under general anesthesia. Surgeons then make an incision in the skin and muscle over the liver and open the abdominal cavity. This method allows surgeons to place the probe under direct vision. The radio waves are then turned on with the surgeons holding the probe in place until the treatment is finished. The probe is then taken out of the tumor and the surgeons make sure there is no abnormal bleeding. The incision is then closed with sutures and the patient is taken to the recovery room for several hours and then is kept in the hospital for several days for observation.
What type of liver cancers can be treated using the radio waves method?
There are many types of cancers that affect the liver. This method of radio waves is best for treating cancers that have originated in another organ and have then spread to the liver. These types of cancers include colon or large bowel cancer, breast cancer and stomach cancer.