Tumor Embolization is a procedure in which small spheres are injected to try to block or reduce the blood flow to cancer cells. Embolization can be performed on many types of tumors, and/or tumors that have an abundant vascular supply. Based on the patient’s anatomy and specific treatment plan, the procedure can be performed by accessing either the femoral artery, in the groin, or the radial artery, in the wrist. All options and plans will be discussed with the physician during the patient’s initial consult.
In some cases, embolization is performed to reduce the blood supply to the tumor so that surgical resection can be performed.
This is a minimally invasive surgical method to treat solid cancers. Special probes are used to “burn” or “freeze” cancers without the usual surgery. Computed Tomography (CT), Ultrasound (US) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is used to guide and position the needle probe into the tumor. This requires only a tiny hole, usually less than 3 mm via which the probe is introduced. When the probe is within the tumor it is attached to a generator which “burns” or “freezes” cancer. The effectiveness of this technique in treating cancer depends on two things:
- The size of the tumor
- Its accessibility to the probes
In general, for cancers 3 cm or less and easily accessible percutaneously the aim is to completely kill cancer. The larger the tumor the more difficult it is to achieve complete cancer death, therefore early treatment is crucial.
The most common cancers treated by this method are lung cancer, liver cancer, and kidney (renal) cancer. Other cancers can also be treated provided they are accessible and of appropriate size.
Different forms of tumor ablation include:
- Radiofrequency ablation: uses high-frequency electric current passed through a probe, causing the probe to increase in temperature killing the cancer cells.
- Cryoablation or Cryotherapy (cold): uses Argon circulated through a probe, freezing the cancer cells.
- Microwave: uses radio waves to heat the probe to kill the cancer cells.
Ablation is an effective treatment option for people who:
- Want to avoid conventional surgery
- Are too ill to undergo surgery
- Have a tumor that is too large to be removed surgically
- Have a limited number of tumors that have metastasized (spread from other parts of their body)
Tumor ablation is also effective for reducing a tumor’s size so that it can be treated more effectively by chemotherapy or radiation therapy or to improve symptoms.