You may be prescribed radiofrequency ablation (RFA) to treat liver metastases in these circumstances:
- if you have more than one tumour in your liver
- if the position of a tumour makes it difficult to operate (for example near a major blood vessel)
- if you have other conditions that make surgery difficult.
Research shows that RFA works best on tumours less than 3cm across, but it can be used on larger tumours. You can have RFA treatment more than once.
The treatment is given under general anaesthetic. The surgeon / radiologist uses specialist scanning equipment (ultrasound /CT) to guide a probe (1-2mm across) into the tumour, where high frequency electrical currents are passed. This creates heat that destroys the cancer cells. The heat can be varied depending on the size of the tumour, and the time taken to treat each tumour is usually about 10-15 minutes.
Some patients experience side-effects after treatment, which can include:
- discomfort or pain where you’ve been treated (for up to two weeks)
- feeling generally unwell for a few days, perhaps with a raised temperature
- infection, bleeding or organ damage (this is rare).
Most people go into hospital the night before the treatment, and go home the day after. You will be given painkillers to take home and you will usually have another CT scan six to eight weeks later to see how effective it was.