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.

  • Experience and expertise. For years, Mayo Clinic experts have been successfully performing RFA for various types of cancer.
  • Multispecialty team approach. Your RFA team at Mayo Clinic includes skilled radiologists who perform the procedure, as well as specialists in general surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, and other areas as needed, such as hepatology for people with liver cancer.
  • Comprehensive cancer center. Mayo Clinic Cancer Center meets strict standards for a National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer center, recognizing scientific excellence and a multispecialty approach focused on cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., is ranked among the Best Hospitals for cancer by U.S. News & World Report. Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., and Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., are ranked high performing for cancer by U.S. News & World Report.

At Mayo Clinic, we assemble a team of specialists who take the time to listen and thoroughly understand your health issues and concerns. We tailor the care you receive to your personal health care needs. You can trust our specialists to collaborate and offer you the best possible outcomes, safety and service.

Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit medical institution that reinvests all earnings into improving medical practice, research and education. We're constantly involved in innovation and medical research, finding solutions to improve your care and quality of life. Your doctor or someone on your medical team is likely involved in research related to your condition.

Our patients tell us that the quality of their interactions, our attention to detail and the efficiency of their visits mean health care — and trusted answers — like they've never experienced.

Why Choose Mayo Clinic

What Sets Mayo Clinic Apart

Mayo Clinic works with hundreds of insurance companies and is an in-network provider for millions of people. In most cases, Mayo Clinic doesn't require a physician referral. Some insurers require referrals or may have additional requirements for certain medical care. All appointments are prioritized on the basis of medical need.

At Mayo Clinic in Arizona, specialists in radiology perform radiofrequency ablation (RFA) for certain types of cancer. Your RFA treatment team may include specialists in general surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology and other areas as needed, such as hepatology for people with liver cancer.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 800-446-2279 (toll-free) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

At Mayo Clinic in Florida, specialists in radiology perform RFA for certain types of cancer. Your RFA treatment team may include specialists in general surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology and other areas as needed, such as hepatology for people with liver cancer.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 904-953-0853 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

At Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, specialists in radiology perform RFA for certain types of cancer. Your RFA team may include specialists in general surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology and other areas as needed, such as hepatology for people with liver cancer.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 507-538-3270 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

See information on patient services at the three Mayo Clinic locations, including transportation options and lodging.

Mayo Clinic radiologists and cancer specialists are experienced in the use of radiofrequency ablation (RFA) for the treatment of tumors. Researchers are studying the safety and efficacy of RFA in:

  • Treating metastatic melanoma
  • Relieving bone tumor pain
  • Combining it with chemotherapy agents

Mayo Clinic is a member of the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, a national clinical research group that conducts top-quality trials aimed at controlling, treating and preventing cancer.

Publications

See a list of publications by Mayo Clinic doctors on radiofrequency ablation on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.

Nov. 17, 2011