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What is Tumor Ablation?

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  • Written By: A. Garrett
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Tumor ablation is a minimally invasive medical procedure that allows for the treatment of certain types of cancer without requiring the surgical removal of unwanted cells. There are two primary forms of tumor ablation: cryoablation and thermal ablation. The success of this alternative form of cancerous tissue removal is contingent on when the cancer is discovered and the size the tumor being treated. Also, while tumor ablation is less invasive than actual surgery, the treatment is not devoid of possible complications or side effects.

A doctor employing the method of tumor ablation to treat cancer uses imaging recorded via ultrasound to guide a medical probe into the tumor. If cryoablation is being used to treat the tumor, the cancerous biological tissue will be frozen to -40 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 degrees Celsius). The extremely cold temperatures emitted by the medical probe kill the diseased cells. Thermal ablation works by using a medical probe to release heat at a temperature high enough to kill deleterious tissue. In the months following the procedure, the once-cancerous tissue cells become innocuous scar tissue.

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Tumor ablation differs from open surgery because the treated cancer tissue remains in the body instead of being removed. A patient treated in this manner spends less time in the hospital as a result of the minimally invasive manner of the procedure. Also, patients are given sedatives during tumor ablation sessions and remain awake; surgery for removal of malignant tumors requires the patient to be incapacitated via anesthesia.

This type of treatment has a limited scope however. Tumor ablation works best for patients with liver, kidney, or lung cancer because the medical probe has easier access to these areas. Typically, the procedure lasts for one hour and only one session is required. Larger tumors decrease the likelihood that cancer cells will be completely eradicated.

There are risks associated with this method of cancer treatment. If a doctor is employing tumor ablation to treat a patient suffering from lung cancer, it is possible that the patient may suffer a collapsed lung during or after the procedure. Also, patients may suffer internal bleeding. The entry site of the probe may also become infected causing further complications. It should be noted that the aforementioned hazards associated with thermal ablation occur in rare occasions and patients can reduce the likelihood of encountering such complications by adhering to the post treatment directives of their physicians.

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