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Radiofrequency treatment

Radiofrequency treatment is also called radiofrequency ablation or RFA. It uses radio waves to kill cancer cells. Radiofrequency is a type of electrical energy. It heats up the tumour and kills the cancer cells.

Who has it?

You might have radiofrequency treatment if you have:

  • a small, early stage kidney cancer but you can't have surgery
  • more than one small tumour, or tumours in both kidneys
  • advanced kidney cancer, where it can help to shrink a tumour and control symptoms

You can't have it if your cancer is too close to other organs, such as the bowel.

This treatment is only available in specialist cancer centres. You can have it more than once if you need to.

What happens?

You might have radiofrequency treatment under local or general anaesthetic.

The doctor puts a small probe, like a needle, through your skin and into the cancer. You have a CT scan at the same time. This checks that the probe is in exactly the right place. An electrode in the probe creates radiofrequency energy to produce heat and kill the cancer cells. 

You may need to stay in hospital overnight after this treatment.

Side effects

You might have some discomfort or pain in the treatment area. Your doctor or nurse will give you painkillers to take for a few days. You may also have a slight temperature and feel tired and weak while you recover. You might need to take it easy and avoid strenuous activity.

Bleeding or infection are other possible side effects. Some people get a narrowing of the tube from the kidney to the bladder (ureter). This causes problems with passing urine.

Your healthcare team will monitor you closely during treatment. You will have a number to ring if you have any concerns or questions when you are back at home.