Ablation therapy is a noninvasive treatment for liver cancer that uses extreme heat to destroy tumors. It can be used as an alternative to traditional surgery and can sometimes lead to full remission.

Ablation therapy can be used for early-stage tumors and tumors in hard-to-operate areas, for people who can’t have traditional surgery, and for people who are waiting for liver transplants.

Ablation can often be done as an outpatient procedure without anesthesia or an incision. Side effects, including stomach pain and fever, are typically mild and last less than a week.

Although ablation doesn’t remove tumors, it can lead to full cancer remission. Continue reading to learn more about ablation therapy for liver cancer, including when it’s typically used, ideal candidates, success rates, and more.

Ablation therapy is a treatment that destroys liver cancer tumors using very high or very low temperatures. These extreme temperature treatments can kill cancer cells and are less invasive than surgery. This makes ablation a good option for people who are unable to have traditional surgery.

Ablation is also a good option for people with small tumors and for people who are waiting for a liver transplant.

There are a few different ablation methods. These include:

  • Radiofrequency ablation (RVA): RVA uses heat created by high-energy radio waves.
  • Microwave ablation (MVA): MVA uses heat created by electromagnetic waves.
  • Cryoablation: Cryoablation uses extreme cold.

Ablation can be used at various points throughout cancer treatment but is best for certain types of tumors. Typically, this means early-stage tumors that are less than an inch in size (25.4 millimeters).

Additionally, ablation is sometimes used on larger tumors, on its own, or in combination with another treatment, such as embolization or surgery. This can help doctors remove tumors in locations that would otherwise be inoperable.

However, ablation generally can’t be used for tumors that are located near blood vessels or major bile ducts.

Ideal candidates for ablation therapy include people who:

  • have small, early-stage tumors
  • can’t have traditional surgery
  • have tumors that can’t be removed with surgery alone
  • are on the waiting list for a liver transplant

Ablation therapy uses a specialized machine that can transmit heat to a needle-like probe. The probe is placed through the skin and into the liver. The needle probe is guided by imaging, typically either a CT scan or an ultrasound.

Ablation can often be done as an outpatient procedure, and in many instances, no anesthesia is needed. When anesthesia is needed, you might stay in the hospital for a single night.

The time needed for an ablation procedure will depend on the exact procedure, the size of the tumor, and other individual factors.

Recovery is typically a quick process. You’ll likely be asked to stay for a few hours of observation after your procedure. During this time, you’ll be resting in a bed, but you’ll be able to do activities such as eating, drinking, reading, and watching TV.

Ablation is a noninvasive procedure that is generally safe. However, all medical procedures can have risks. Possible complications and risks of ablation include:

  • stomach pain
  • liver infection
  • fever
  • flu-like symptoms
  • damage to the surrounding tissue
  • bleeding

Typically, these complications are mild and will fade after a few days, but it’s possible for serious complications to occur. Let your doctor know if your symptoms are severe or if they last more than a week.

Unlike surgery, ablation therapy doesn’t remove tumors, but it does kill tumors and prevents further growth. Even though the tumors aren’t removed, ablation can still cause complete cancer remission.

Ablation is typically the most successful for people with small tumors that are less than an inch (24.5 millimeters) in diameter. Your doctor will talk with you about the benefits you can expect from your ablation treatment.

Ablation is one of several liver cancer treatment options. The exact treatment plan for your liver cancer will vary depending on factors such as your age, overall health, the size of your tumor, and the stage of your cancer at diagnosis.

Possible treatment options for liver cancer include:

Ablation therapy is a treatment option for liver cancer that uses extreme temperatures to destroy tumors.

Ablation is noninvasive and can be used in place of surgery for small, early-stage tumors and as an alternate treatment for people who can’t have surgery. Sometimes, ablation is used along with another treatment method to target and destroy tumors in places that make surgery challenging.

Ablation can often be done as an outpatient procedure and has a quick recovery timeline. Side effects and complications are typically mild and only last for a few days. Ablation can lead to full remission, especially for people who have tumors that are less than an inch in diameter.