How does cryoablation for kidney cancer work?

Cryoablation is used to treat small tumors, up to four centimeters (or about 1½ inches).

Cold gas is used to destroy the tumor by freezing it, and then rapidly thawing it. This starves the cancer cells of blood, oxygen, and water. The gas is delivered through a thin needle that is inserted into the tumor. This is usually a laparoscopic procedure, which means the doctor makes a few small cuts and uses a tiny camera on an instrument called a laparoscope.

This can also be done through the skin (percutaneously) with a radiologist inserting a needle that is guided by a CT scan to freeze the tumor. This is even less invasive than the laparoscopic approach.

What happens before and after cryoablation for kidney cancer?

Your doctor might ask you to stop taking certain medications or supplements as much as a week before the procedure. You will be asked to not eat or drink for eight hours before the procedure.

You will probably only be in the hospital for one day, but full recovery might take as long as three weeks. During this time you will be asked to avoid strenuous activity. For this reason, arranging for some help at home is a good idea. You will have several follow-up appointments for scanning procedures over the next six months.

How does radiofrequency ablation for kidney cancer work?

Several needles are placed in the tumor. The needles are used to heat the tumor with electric currents, or radio waves, that destroy it. This is usually done under local anesthesia, meaning you will be awake for the procedure. You might be given medicine to help you relax.

What happens before and after radiofrequency ablation for kidney cancer?

As with cryoablation, your doctor will give you instructions about when to stop taking medications and supplements. He or she will tell you how long you need to not eat or drink before the procedure.

You might be able to go home shortly after the procedure is over and resume your normal activities after a few days. However, more than one session may be required.

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