Tumour Ablation for Liver Cancer: What to Expect at Home

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Your Recovery

The liver

Tumour ablation is a procedure to shrink a liver tumour by sending radio waves, chemicals, heat, or cold into the tumour. The doctor put a thin needle or probe through your skin into the tumour in your liver.

The area where the needle or probe was put into your skin (the puncture site) may be sore for a day or two after the procedure, and you may have a bruise. You may have a dull pain in your belly or right shoulder for a couple of days. This is called referred pain. It is caused by pain travelling along a nerve near the liver.

You will have tests in the months after the procedure to check the liver tumour to see how well the treatment worked.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover.
  • Try to walk each day. Start by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation.
  • Avoid strenuous activities, such as bicycle riding, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise, until your doctor says it is okay.
  • For 2 to 3 days after the procedure, avoid lifting anything that would make you strain. This may include a child, heavy grocery bags and milk containers, a heavy briefcase or backpack, cat litter or dog food bags, or a vacuum cleaner.
  • You may shower 24 to 48 hours after the procedure, if your doctor says it is okay. Tape a plastic bag over the puncture site to keep it dry while you shower. Pat the puncture site dry. Do not take a bath for the first 5 days, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.
  • Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
  • Most people are able to return to work within 1 to 2 weeks after the procedure.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking those medicines again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, take an over-the-counter medicine that your doctor recommends. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • Do not take aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) unless your doctor says it is okay.
  • If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
    • Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.

Care of the puncture site

  • Keep a bandage over the puncture site for the first 2 or 3 days, or until your doctor says you can take it off.
  • After the doctor says it is okay to take off the bandage, wash the area daily with warm, soapy water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing. You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it weeps or rubs against clothing. Change the bandage every day.
  • Keep the area clean and dry.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time to help with soreness or swelling. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin. You can do this 2 or 3 times a day.

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.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.
  • You have severe bleeding from the puncture site.
  • You have severe pain in your belly, chest, or shoulder.
  • You have a fever with shaking chills.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse shortness of breath.
  • You are bleeding from the puncture site.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness near the puncture site.
    • Red streaks leading from the puncture site.
    • Pus draining from the puncture site.
    • A fever.
  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You are sick to your stomach or cannot keep fluids down.
  • Your belly feels swollen.
  • You have trouble passing urine or stool.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: July 26, 2016