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Radiofrequency Ablation

What is radiofrequency ablation for liver cancer?

Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive therapy that heats and destroys cancer cells. It is the preferred treatment when diseased tissue is small or cannot be surgically removed. It can be most frequently performed by our radiologists under ultrasound guidance using a probe passed through the skin and into the liver tumor. Sedation is required during the ablation procedure and patients return home typically the same day. This procedure has a high chance of cure for tumors less than about 1 inch in diameter and can be repeated if necessary.

Multidisciplinary Liver Tumor Care

When liver tumor patients at the University of Michigan receive this therapy, it means that doctors and nurses are providing cancer care according to a personalized treatment plan developed by specialists in the U-M Rogel Cancer Center's multidisciplinary tumor program. Members are experts in hepatology, surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, and diagnostic and interventional radiology. Their frequent meetings allow patients to have the expertise of a multidisciplinary team of physicians with a focus on liver cancer - without having to schedule individual appointments.

Patients receive radiofrequency ablation when their cancer began in the liver, or spread to the liver from another area. An advantage of this treatment is that it can expand surgical options for some patients, for example by eliminating small tumors in order to remove the remaining, large tumor using surgery.

More than 60 liver tumor patients are treated annually at the University of Michigan using radiofrequency ablation. It can often be done as an outpatient procedure or with a short hospital stay. Radiofrequency ablation has less risk, fewer complications and quicker recovery than surgery.

What to expect

In this procedure, needle electrodes are inserted through the skin into the tumor. A special generator sends therapeutic energy through the needle tips directly to the diseased tissue. This process may need to be repeated depending on the tissue size, number and location. The destroyed tissue is not removed, but gradually shrinks and is replaced by scar tissue.

Make an appointment/referral, or have your questions answered

The Cancer AnswerLine™ is staffed by oncology nurses and is just a phone call away to answer your questions or to assist you in making an appointment.

Please call 800-865-1125 to make an appointment or for the answers to any questions you have.

NOTE: Children and young adults receive treatment in the Solid Tumor Oncology Program, part of C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.

If you would like to refer a patient, please contact our M-Line service: 800-962-3555. For more information, visit our Make an Appointment web page.

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