People with inoperable kidney and liver tumours may rely on a new, non-surgical procedure called Radio-frequency ablation (RFA), which has already been successful in treating Hollywood talent manager, Louis Bershad, after he was diagnosed with a malignant tumour in his left kidney.
"The room seemed to go black, then I could only envision a long treatment journey that would likely require open surgery, and intensive chemotherapy, both of which can have complications and result in a lot of missed time from work," says the 68-year-old, whose clients include many top actors in town.
Bershad revealed that his physician discussed treatment options with him and, keeping in mind his general health, the extent and location of his tumour, and the stage of the cancer, recommended radio-frequency ablation (RFA).
"I considered my options carefully - and the choice was clear. I didn't want to go through an operation or the loss of my kidney," says Bershad.
The RFA procedure requires only local anaesthesia and avoids the scars and complications associated with traditional open surgery. Since the procedure does not involve cutting, it is also a viable option for individuals previously thought to be too old or sick to withstand surgery.
During RFA, an interventional radiologist carefully guides an ablation needle into the centre of the tumour using imaging techniques such as ultrasound or CT scan. The probe is connected to a radio-frequency generator that delivers alternating electrical current to the tumour producing heat up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This causes cancerous cells to shrink and die, but healthy tissue is spared because the probe cools as it is removed.
"My doctor asked me to come back for an MRI in three months, so that he could make sure the tumours were gone," explained Bershad, who was diagnosed with stage II renal cell carcinoma, the most common type of kidney cancer that begins in the cells that line the small tubes within the kidney.
In comparison with the surgical removal of kidney tumours that results in hospital admissions of 7 to 10 days and postoperative recovery time of 6 to 8 weeks, RFA is minimally invasive with a short recovery time, allows for the kidney to be preserved, and also avoids postoperative complications such as pain, pneumonia, injury to the organs and scars.
"RFA has emerged as an alternative treatment for inoperable liver cancer, and has been shown to vaporize tumours as well as slow cancer progression in larger tumours," said Dr. Peter J. Julien, director of the Radio-frequency Ablation Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center's S. Mark Taper Foundation Imaging Center.
While explaining that preliminary results in patients with liver, lung and kidney cancer are promising, Dr. Julian said, "It is possible that this procedure may someday completely replace surgery for kidney cancers in many patients."
Bershad, who underwent the procedure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center six months ago, said that he returned to work and resumed his daily activities only one day after the procedure. He said that he wanted people to know how effective the new procedure was.
"I feel very lucky. My lifestyle remains untouched: I'm active and I work, swim and play with my Dobermans as if it never happened. If you have a cold, you lose more time than this," he said.
"I want people to know that this procedure is available, effective and painless," he added.