Despite advances, not all liver tumors can be removed completely by surgery. Some tumors are simply too large or widespread throughout the liver, or have recurred after prior surgery. Some patients have other health conditions that may preclude them from undergoing liver surgery. For inoperable tumors, ablation therapies can be a beneficial alternative, and provide a curative option, extend survival and improve quality of life.
With ablation therapies, a surgeon or an interventional radiologist inserts a probe directly into the tumor or tumors, using guidance from ultrasound or CT imaging. The probes generate heat above water’s boiling point (100°C) which kills the cancer cells. The probes use various energy sources such as radio waves, microwaves, or electricity and may be directed to the tumor through the skin (percutaneous) or through tiny incisions (laparoscopic). Roswell Park offers these outpatient ablation therapies for liver tumors:
- Radiofrequency ablation (RFA): A probe inserted into the tumor springs to emit radio waves around the tumor, heating and destroying cancer cells.
- Microwave (MW) ablation: Uses microwaves to heat and destroy the cancer cells.
- NanoKnife irreversible electroporation, or NanoKnife IRE: This newest ablation technology destroys tumor cells using high-voltage electrical energy. With NanoKnife, multiple probes shoot electricity between them, poking microscopic holes in the cells, enhancing cancer cell death while protecting critical blood vessels.