Tumour Ablation

Tumour ablation is the process of using heat energy, delivered by a special needle directly into the tumour, to destroy the tumour. It is a safe and effective method of treating certain tumours with minimal side effects. It allows treatment of tumour in patients who might not be fit for a major operation. The technique allows preservation of the normal healthy tissue near the tumour meaning it can be used in patients who cannot undergo surgery because of previous surgeries or treatments.

When can ablation be used?

Patients with various types of cancer may be appropriately treated with tumour ablation. Ablation was initially used mostly in the liver for treatment of primary liver cancer and spread of bowel cancer to the liver. It has also more recently been used in the lungs, for treatment of small lung cancers or cancer elsewhere which has spread to the lungs. Ablation can also be used in kidney cancer and in the spread of cancer to the bones.

How is cancer managed?

Cancer is not one disease. There is a wide range of prognosis and behaviour depending on the type of cancer. The decision over how cancer is treated is a decision made by a group of doctors and nurses in a special meeting known as a multidisciplinary team meeting. Your general health, previous history, scans and your wishes are taken into account. Some patients are best treated by surgery, others chemotherapy or newer drugs which target cancers in different ways. Some patients are also best treated by radiotherapy. There are patients who, depending on their background, the type, size and number of cancer spots, are best treated by ablation.

Ablation can be curative but this depends on many factors. It can also be used to control tumour spread even if new sites of tumour occur. The fact that ablation minimises damage to healthy tissue and is nonsurgical means that it can be used several times if needed to keep tumour under control or to reduce symptoms from the tumour.

We know that 15-30% of patients who may be cured by surgery cannot undergo surgery for medical reasons or because of the location of tumour.