Tumour ablation for liver cancer

Tumour ablation means destroying the tumour by applying heat or alcohol directly to it. For liver cancer, ablation can be used to treat small tumours, usually smaller than 3cm. It may be suitable if you cannot have surgery, or choose not to have surgery.

Tumour ablation can also be carried out during a laparoscopy or a liver resection. Your liver specialist will explain whether this type of treatment may be suitable for you.

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA)

This treatment destroys cancer cells by heating them to a high temperature. Some people have RFA more than once.

We have more information about how RFA is given and the possible side effects.

Microwave ablation (MWA)

This is a type of treatment where the tumour is exposed to high temperatures created by microwaves. It is done in the same way as radiofrequency ablation (RFA) and the side effects are the same.

Percutaneous ethanol injection (PEI)

This involves a doctor injecting pure alcohol (ethanol) through the skin and into the tumour. The alcohol destroys the cancer cells.

You have this done in the scanning department. The doctor gives you a local anaesthetic to numb the area. They use an ultrasound to help guide the needle into the tumour. You usually need several treatments, depending on the number of tumours and their size. If the tumour grows again, you can have the treatment again.

Side effects

Side effects include pain and fever, and are usually mild. Let your doctor know if you develop any side effects. They can usually be controlled with medicines.