At Mount Sinai, we occasionally treat liver cancer with minimally invasive therapies. Using these therapies lowers the chances of complications, and shortens the recovery time. These approaches use a needle-like probe to ablate (destroy) or embolize (block) the tumor. We start by inserting the probe into the artery near the groin. Then we use ultrasound or computed tomography (CT) scans to direct the probe into the liver tumor.
The procedures that we use most often are:
- Radiofrequency ablation: We use imaging to deliver a tiny probe into the liver tumor. There is an electrode on the tip of the probe. When the probe is in position, we send a radiofrequency current through the electrode, which creates energy that destroys (ablates) the tumor. The current may also close small blood vessels, which decreases the risk of internal bleeding. We also call this approach selective internal radiation therapy.
- Cryoablation: Using cold energy, we freeze and destroy the liver tumor. Once the probe is in place, we cool it to -360 degrees Fahrenheit/-190 degrees Celsius. This cold freezes the tumor. Thanks to the precision of our imaging, we can safely use cryoablation to treat tumors that are closed to critical organs.
- Microwave ablation: This approach uses heat to destroy the liver tumor. We use imaging to guide the probe to the tumor, then raise the temperature of the probe. This approach works well on tumors that are located near large blood vessels.
- Chemoembolization: We use an image-guided catheter to deliver particles containing chemotherapy directly to the tumor. These particles, called embolization beads, slowly release the cancer drug for maximum effectiveness. Because we deliver the chemotherapy directly to the tumor, this approach has minimal effect on your healthy tissue.
- Radioembolization: With this approach, we use an image-guided catheter to deliver microscopic radioactive beads to the tumor. The beads stay in the blood vessel that feeds the tumor, starving it so that it dies. Like chemoembolization, this approach has minimal effect on the surrounding tissue.