A minimally invasive treatment for kidney cancer

What is kidney tumor ablation?

Kidney tumor ablation is a minimally invasive treatment for kidney cancer. It can be an alternative to surgery for patients with a few, small tumors in certain locations.

Ablation uses heat or ice to destroy tumors. Heating the tumor is done with “microwave ablation” or “radiofrequency ablation.” Freezing the tumor is called “cryoablation.” The dead tumor turns into a scar over time.

How is kidney tumor ablation done?

The clinician numbs the skin then slides a small tube through a blood vessel at the top of the thigh or wrist. Moving x-rays help guide the tube into the blood vessels in the liver that feed the tumor. Next, they inject tiny beads soaked in chemotherapy through the tube. The beads block the tumor’s blood supply. This kills the tumor over days and weeks.


Fig 1: The clinician finds the kidney tumor using ultrasound or CT. They put the wand into the tumor through a pinhole in the skin.

Fig 2: They turn on the wand to heat or freeze the tumor. This kills the tumor.

Fig 3: After removing the wand, the clinician puts a bandage over the pinhole. The tumor turns into a scar over time.

What are the risks?

Kidney tumor ablation is generally a safe procedure when done by a specialist.


1-5 IN 100 PEOPLE

  • develop internal bleeding
  • have nerve injury

1-2  IN 100 PEOPLE

  • develop infection
  • develop skin burns
  • have urine leak inside the body
  • have a lung collapse
  • experience damage to the intestines


1 IN 10-20 PEOPLE

  • experience temporary pain
  • have a fever
  • experience minor bleeding

Death is extremely rare, occurring in up to

1 IN 1000 PEOPLE

What are the alternatives?

Your treatment options depend on your preferences and unique conditions. These include your overall health as well as the size, location and number of tumors that you have. Sometimes you may benefit from a combination of these treatments.

  • Alternative 1 No treatment The disadvantage of this is that the cancer may continue to grow.
  • Alternative 2 Surgery to cut the tumor out or remove the kidney.
  • Alternative 3 Medicines to treat the cancer or help the immune system fight the cancer.
  • Alternative 4 Radiation therapy is less commonly used for kidney cancer unless it has spread.  It is a series of treatments to destroy the tumor with radiation beams from the outside.

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