Sutter Cancer Center Treatments & Services
One of the most promising advances in many years, thermal ablation treats cancer tumors using heat-generating probes inserted directly into malignant tissue. Because cancer cells are more susceptible to destruction by heat than normal tissue cells, thermal ablation allows surgeons to treat tumors with minimal damage to surrounding tissue. Especially in cancers of the liver, lung, bone and kidney that are often difficult to treat surgically, thermal ablation offers a better alternative to eliminate or shrink tumors and reduce pain.
- What Is Thermal Ablation?
- How Does Thermal Ablation Work?
- What are the Benefits of Thermal Ablation?
- What are the Patient Criteria for Thermal Ablation?
- What Are the Risks?
- Who Does the Procedure?
- How Do I Learn More?
What Is Thermal Ablation? | back to top
There are two types of thermal ablation: radiofrequency (RFA) and microwave. Both are minimally invasive techniques that treat cancer by applying intense heat through a small probe inserted directly into the tumor.
RFA and microwave ablation treatments aim to reduce patient symptoms, improve quality of life and increase survival rate.
How Does Thermal Ablation Work? | back to top
Surgeons use state of the art CT scanning to position a probe into the tumor. Alternating electrical currents pass through the tumor, heating the tissue. The heat destroys the cells and ablates (destroys) the tumor. Procedure Photo 1 | Procedure Photo 2
What are the Benefits of Thermal Ablation? | back to top
Thermal ablation provides an excellent alternative to major surgery, which can pose risks even with the most experienced surgeons. Many patients who do not qualify for standard surgery can still be treated with Thermal Ablation. Thermal Ablation significantly reduces risks and speeds recovery. Most patients are able to go home the same day as the procedure.
What are the Patient Criteria for Thermal Ablation? | back to top
The procedure works best if the tumor(s) are not widely metastatic and less than four centimeters in diameter. The tumor(s) should not be close to any critical organs and it is most effective when there are fewer than five tumors to treat.
What Are the Risks? | back to top
As with every procedure, there are risks. The risk of major complication due to thermal ablation is one to two percent. Bleeding is the most common complication. Depending on the size of the tumor, it is possible that thermal ablation will destroy only part of the tumor. If this is an issue in your case, your physician will discuss the risk during your consultation.
Who Does the Procedure? | back to top
The Sutter Cancer Center is staffed by leading specialists in thoracic and oncologic surgery, interventional radiology, radiation therapy and pulmonary treatment. Gregory Graves, M.D., is the lead surgical oncologist and has been performing Thermal Ablation therapies for more than 20 years.