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Tumour Ablation for Liver Cancer: Before Your Procedure

The digestive system

What is tumour ablation?

Tumour ablation is a procedure to shrink a liver tumour by sending radio waves, chemicals, heat, or cold into the tumour.

The doctor will insert a thin needle or a probe into your skin on the right side of your belly near your ribs. You may feel pain in your shoulder for a few seconds when the needle or probe goes into your liver. This is called referred pain. It is caused by pain travelling along a nerve near the liver.

You may feel some pain in your belly when the doctor uses the probe. If the tumour is large, the doctor may repeat the procedure from a different angle. This is to make sure that all areas of the tumour are treated.

After the procedure, the doctor will remove the needle or probe. The doctor or nurse will put a bandage over your skin where the probe was inserted. You will probably go home on the same day as the procedure.

The radio waves, chemicals, heat, or cold make the tumour shrink. Bit by bit, the tumour will be replaced with scar tissue over the next few months. This will not affect your liver's ability to do its job.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What happens before the procedure?

Preparing for the procedure

  • Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctors ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if you should stop taking it before your procedure. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do. These medicines increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your procedure. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before your procedure. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. Bring a copy to the hospital. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors advise that everyone prepare these papers before any type of surgery or procedure.

Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.

What happens on the day of the procedure?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your procedure may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of the procedure, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your procedure. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. The anesthesia may make you sleep. Or it may just numb the area being worked on.
  • The procedure will take about 1 to 3 hours, depending on the number of treatments you need.

Going home

  • Be sure you have someone to drive you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine make it unsafe for you to drive.
  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your procedure. They will cover things like diet, wound care, follow-up care, driving, and getting back to your normal routine.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your procedure.
  • You become ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the procedure.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.