Radio Frequency Ablation radiotherapy

Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA) can be used to try to reduce the size of the tumour or relieve the symptoms of cancer (palliative treatment)

We are currently reviewing this page. If you have any questions please contact 

Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA) is not routinely used to treat pancreatic cancer and may only be available as part of a clinical trial.

How does it work?

RFA uses heat to destroy cancer cells. A probe is inserted into the tumour which delvers an electrical current. This electrical current heats up the cancer cells to very high temperatures which destroys them in a process known as ablation.

How is RFA given?

RFA can be given in a number of ways. The most common is either under local or general anaesthetic, probes are placed into the tumour and heated. The heat and current produce bubbles which remove and destroy the tumour cells. Doctors can track the progress of the therapy using an ultrasound or CT scan, so that they can see the results of the treatment in real time.

Sometimes you may have treatment another way, through the use of a laparoscope (small camera) or at the same time as surgery to treat the symptoms of pancreatic cancer such as a bypass.

How is treatment given?

Treatment will usually take place in an operating theatre or in the radiology department and can take between 1 to 3 hours depending on the size of the tumour being treated.

You will normally be asked not to eat anything for several hours beforehand and if you take any medicines, you will normally be asked to take these as normal. Should you be taking medicines to thin your blood such as warfarin or aspirin, you will told when you need to stop taking them.

Usually patients will need to stay in hospital overnight.

Are there any side effects?

Your medical team will explain any possible side effects and potential complications after treatment with RFA but sometimes patients may feel a little discomfort or pain for a few days afterwards which will be treated with painkillers.

It is also possible that you will feel unwell with a raised temperature and be tired for the first few days. This is a normal reaction and is caused by your body clearing away the cells that have been destroyed by this treatment.  This should ease after about a week.

If your temperature doesn’t return to normal or it goes above 38oC (100.4oF) contact your doctor straight away as you may have an infection.