Tumour ablation for primary liver cancer
Ablation means ‘to destroy’. There are two different ways of ablating primary liver tumours, using either alcohol or heat.
Percutaneous ethanol injection
This type of treatment is used for tumours that are less than 5cm (2in) in size. Alcohol (ethanol) is injected through the skin and into the liver tumour. The alcohol destroys the cancer cells. This procedure is usually done in the scanning department so that ultrasound can be used to guide the needle directly into the tumour. You’ll be given a local anaesthetic.
Several treatments may be required. If the tumour grows again, the treatment can be repeated.
Side effects of percutaneous ethanol injection include pain and fever, and are usually mild. Let your doctor know if you develop any side effects, as they can usually be controlled with medication.
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA)
This treatment uses laser light or radio waves to destroy cancer cells by heating them to a very high temperature. A fine needle is passed through the skin into the liver tumour. Powerful laser light or radio waves are then passed through the needle into the tumour. This heats the cancer cells and destroys (ablates) them. RFA doesn’t always manage to destroy all the cancer cells. Some people may need to be treated more than once. Your doctor will let you know if this treatment is suitable for you.
Like a percutaneous ethanol injection, this treatment is done in the scanning department using ultrasound or CT (computerised tomography) scanning so that the doctor can guide the needle directly into the tumour. You may be given a local anaesthetic or a general anaesthetic.
Side effects of RFA include pain and fever, but they’re usually very mild and can be controlled with medicines.