A minimally invasive treatment called radiofrequency ablation (RFA), one of several types of ablation therapy, may be an alternative when surgery for certain types of cancer is not a good option. Guided by imaging techniques, the doctor inserts a thin needle through the skin and into the tumor. High-frequency electrical energy delivered through this needle heats and destroys the tumor. Months after the procedure, dead cells turn into a harmless scar.

RFA can be used to treat certain types of cancers in the liver, bone, kidney, lung and other locations, destroying cancer cells while preserving surrounding healthy cells. Whether you are a good candidate for RFA depends on several issues, such as the size and location of your tumor.

About

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a minimally invasive alternative to surgery if you are not a good surgical candidate, have recurrent or multiple small tumors, or do not benefit from conventional therapies. RFA can also be used before or after surgery or in combination with radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Your doctor will determine whether RFA is the most appropriate treatment for you.

Advantages of RFA include:

  • Effective treatment for small tumors
  • Minimally invasive with no skin incision
  • Minimal risk
  • Few complications
  • Typically little or no pain
  • Minimal hospital stay
  • Can be repeated if new cancer appears

Types of cancer treated with RFA at Mayo Clinic include:

  • Liver cancer. RFA can be effective for cancer that starts in the liver and for some types of cancer that have spread to the liver, such as colon cancer.
  • Kidney cancer. For select people, RFA may be considered for small kidney tumors.
  • Lung cancer. For select people who have lung cancer tumors that are limited in size and number, RFA may be a nonsurgical alternative.
  • Bone cancer. RFA may be used to try to control severe pain caused by bone cancer that's limited to one or two sites, rather than to cure bone cancer.

RFA may also be used to treat other diseases and conditions.

Nov. 17, 2011