Radiofrequency ablation

Benefit from an advanced and effective cancer treatment option that’s less invasive than surgery. Your Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula care team may recommend radiofrequency ablation, or RFA, as part of your cancer treatment plan.

What’s radiofrequency therapy?

RFA destroys cancer cells using radio waves and an electrical current. The procedure is a minimally invasive alternative to surgery, so you’ll have a faster recovery, with less risk of complications. It affects less healthy tissue because it treats a tumor in a localized, targeted way.

Even when RFA doesn’t remove all of a tumor, reducing its size can lengthen your life. To help you reach your best possible outcome, you may have RFA in addition to other cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Types of cancer treated

RFA is most often used to treat tumors in the:

  • Bone
  • Liver
  • Lungs
  • Kidneys

Your doctor may recommend RFA instead of surgery if you have multiple tumors.

How RFA works

RFA is an interventional radiology procedure, which means your doctor will use imaging technology to guide minimally invasive treatment.

During RFA, your doctor will place a needle electrode in the cancer tumor. The electrode uses an electrical current to heat and destroy (ablate) cancer cells.

Healthy tissue is better able to withstand the heat than cancerous tissue. Generally, the procedure only affects a thin rim of noncancerous tissue.

What to expect

You’ll wear a hospital gown during RFA. At the start of your procedure, you’ll lie on an examining table. A nurse or technologist will place an IV line into your arm or hand so you can receive medications and fluids.

Safety and pain management

Throughout your procedure, your care team will closely monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, and pulse. To prevent infection, your care team will clean your skin with a special soap and may shave the area where your provider will place the electrode.

You’ll be under general anesthesia. This means you’ll be asleep and won’t feel pain or remember the procedure. You’ll also receive local anesthesia to numb the area where your provider will insert the electrode.

During RFA

Your provider will make a small cut in the skin and use imaging technology to guide the placement of the needle directly to the tumor. Once the needle is in place, it sends radiofrequency energy to destroy cancer cells. The time the ablation takes depends on how large the tumor is.

Your care team will remove the needle and apply pressure to stop any bleeding. You won’t need stitches. Your team will place a bandage on the area.

Your recovery

You’ll stay overnight in the hospital for care. When it’s time to leave the hospital, you’ll receive medications to relieve any pain or nausea. Follow your doctor’s instructions on how to recover at home. Most people return to their normal activities within a day or two.

RFA usually has a lower risk of side effects and complications than traditional surgery. Sometimes, people have flu-like symptoms after RFA. Rarely, some people experience pain. Call your doctor if your symptoms are severe.

Follow-up care

You may receive RFA more than one time. Rely on your care team for any needed follow-up care. If part of a tumor remains after RFA, you may have radiation therapy to destroy the remaining cancer cells.

Schedule your orientation

Call (831) 625-4630, Ext. 2438, to make an appointment for radiation therapy orientation. During orientation, you’ll:

  • Learn about what to expect during radiation therapy
  • Get answers to your questions
  • Tour the radiation therapy area
  • Meet our staff

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