Overview

Radiofrequency ablation for cancer is a minimally invasive procedure that uses electrical energy and heat to destroy cancer cells.

The radiologist uses imaging tests to guide a thin needle through the skin or through an incision and into the cancer tissue. High-frequency energy passes through the needle and causes the surrounding tissue to heat up, killing the nearby cells.

Radiofrequency ablation is most commonly used to treat a spot of cancer that is causing problems such as pain or other discomfort, and is generally not used as the primary treatment for most cancers.

Radiofrequency ablation is sometimes used to treat cancers in the:

  • Adrenal gland
  • Breast
  • Bone
  • Kidney
  • Liver
  • Lung
  • Pancreas
  • Thyroid

Radiofrequency ablation is typically considered a treatment option only if you're not a good candidate for surgery for some reason — such as your overall health or the presence of many small tumors in an organ.

Radiofrequency ablation may also be an option for treating precancerous cells in the esophagus that are associated with Barrett's esophagus. Radiofrequency ablation is one of several types of ablation therapy used to treat a wide range of conditions.

Clinical trials

Explore Mayo Clinic studies testing new treatments, interventions and tests as a means to prevent, detect, treat or manage this disease.

Radiofrequency ablation for cancer care at Mayo Clinic

Dec. 15, 2017
References
  1. Townsend CM Jr, et al. Principles of preoperative and operative surgery. In: Sabiston Textbook of Surgery: The Biological Basis of Modern Surgical Practice. 20th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2017. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Aug. 14, 2017.
  2. Moynihan TJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Sept. 20, 2017.
  3. Depuy DE. Image-guided ablation of lung tumors. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Aug. 17, 2017.
  4. Niederhuber JE, et al., eds. Nonsurgical focal therapy for renal tumors. In: Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2014. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Aug. 14, 2017.
  5. Niederhuber JE, et al., eds. Liver metastases. In: Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2014. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Aug. 14, 2017.
  6. Bergman JJ. Barrett's esophagus: Treatment with radiofrequency ablation. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Aug. 17, 2017.
  7. Menash ET, et al. Radiofrequency ablation for biliary malignancies. Current Opinion in Gastroenterology. 2016;32:238.
  8. Thompson SM, et al. Image-guided thermal ablative therapies in the treatment of sarcoma. Current Treatment Options in Oncology. 2017;18:25.

Radiofrequency ablation for cancer