CAMC continues to lead the fight against cancer with the addition of minimally-invasive ablation, which allows surgeons to kill tumors in the liver with heat derived from microwave energy.
"This is great because not only does it help the patient recover more quickly, but it has great outcomes," said Jesse Clanton, MD, a general surgeon specializing in the area of the liver, pancreas, gall bladder and bile ducts. "Sometimes patients might have a tumor on their liver and not be able to handle major surgery or resection. In the past we wouldn't be able to offer them much - maybe chemotherapy. This expands the treatment options for patients that we previously wouldn't have been able to treat with treatments that are very effective."
For the procedure, the surgeon uses ultrasound to carefully guide a needle with an electrode tip to the tumor. The surgeon then turns on the microwave ablation machine that heats the needle to kill the cancer cells.
"Everybody knows a microwave heats your food," said Michael Elmore, MD, surgical oncologist. "It's a simple process. We insert the needle into the tumor and heat it to the point where it kills the cancerous tissue in the liver. This is actually improved technology that allows us to burn right up to blood vessels without damaging them. So it really allows us to provide cancer care for more patients."
Microwave ablation is often recommended for patients who are unable to undergo surgical removal of a tumor for issues like advanced age, overall disease burden or cardiopulmonary problems. It can also be used as part of a multifaceted overall treatment plan for complex cases.
"Using microwave probes is a way to do the ablation in a quicker way that allows more patients to potentially receive the treatment," Clanton said. "This is a way for us to kill cancer cells and kill the tumor without having to remove a significant portion of the liver, so it allows patients to have normal liver function afterward."
"It's a game changer," Elmore said. "It's hard to do liver surgery with small incisions if you're cutting big pieces out. To be able to do this laparoscopically, and to be able to send them home the same day or next day, is a lot better than keeping them for a few days. The recovery is much quicker. The pain after surgery is much less. Their ability to return to work quicker is much approved. Overall, it's better for them."