Ablation therapy is a treatment that uses heat or cold to destroy, or ablate, cancer tumors without the need for more invasive surgery. Special probes are used to deliver ablative treatments directly to the tumor. The surgeon relies on computer imaging to guide the probes to the correct position and monitor the progress of the treatment.
Advantages of Ablative Therapy
Ablative therapy has several advantages. It causes minimal pain and has a shorter recovery time than surgery or radiation therapy. In fact, it usually does not require an overnight hospital stay. It can also be used in conjunction with other cancer treatments.
Types of Ablative Therapy
Cryoablation is also known as cryotherapy or cryosurgery. A special probe is inserted into the tumor and then cooled to temperatures well below freezing. A ball of ice forms at the tip of the probe, freezing and destroying cancerous tissue. Cryotherapy is not as invasive as surgery, and can sometimes be performed as an outpatient procedure. Cryotherapy is currently used to treat prostate and kidney cancers.
The biggest disadvantage with using cryotherapy to treat prostate cancer is that most men (about 80%) will lose the ability to have an erection. However, for men who already have erectile dysfunction, cryotherapy is a convenient and effective prostate cancer treatment. MD Anderson is conducting research to focus cryotherapy to treat just the tumor instead of the entire prostate, with the goal of preserving erectile function.
Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)
A needle-thin probe delivers radiofrequency waves directly to the tumor, heating the tissue until it is destroyed. Radiofrequency ablation is best for smaller, localized tumors. RFA can be used to treat a variety of cancers: