Tumour ablation for lung cancer
Tumour ablation involves treatments that destroy cancer cells using:
- heat (radiofrequency or microwave ablation)
- laser light (photodynamic therapy).
Before having RFA, you may have a local anaesthetic and sedative to make you sleepy. Some people have a general anaesthetic. You usually need to stay in hospital overnight to have the treatment. You might have RFA for one or more sessions.
The doctor puts a needle into the tumour. They usually use a CT scan to make sure it is in the right place. An electrical current (radio-waves) passes through the needle into the tumour. The current heats the cancer cells to a high temperature. This destroys (ablates) them.
You may have some pain or discomfort after having RFA. You will be given painkillers to control this. You may also feel tired afterwards.
Always contact your doctor if you become more breathless after having RFA.
This treatment destroys cancer cells using lasers or other light sources, together with a light-sensitive drug. You can have PDT on its own, but you are more likely to have it with other treatments.
PDT is only available at some hospitals.
How is PDT given?
You have PDT in two stages:
- First, a nurse gives you a light-sensitive drug as an injection into a vein. They do this at the hospital. The drug makes the cancer cells more sensitive to the laser.
- Second, you have the laser light treatment. This is done a few hours after the light-sensitive drug is injected. This gives it time to be taken up by the cancer cells. The doctor may give you a drug to help you to relax. Then they direct the laser light at the tumour using a bronchoscope. The laser makes the light-sensitive drug destroy cancer cells.
Side effects of PDT
The light-sensitive drug makes you temporarily sensitive to light. You may need to avoid bright light, by covering your skin and wearing sunglasses in daylight. How long you need to do this for depends on the drug you have. The nurse will explain what you need to do.
Side effects of PDT include breathlessness and a cough. Your doctor can give you more information.
We have more information about PDT.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our lung cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at email@example.com
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Lung cancer – Diagnosis and management. Clinical guideline 2019.
Metastatic non-small cell lung cancer: ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. 2018.
European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO). Early and locally advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC): ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. 2017.
This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr David Gilligan, Consultant Clinical Oncologist.
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