Diagnosed with lung cancer five years ago, Joseph Palagonia relied on chemotherapy until his physician recommended another option: a relatively new, minimally invasive procedure that would shrink the tumor on his left lung. Paired with chemotherapy treatments, radiofrequency ablation (RFA) packed a powerful punch against his cancer.
In the spring of 2004, Mr. Palagonia came to Winthrop-University Hospital's Lung Cancer Center with the hope that RFA would improve his condition. It did.
L-R: Man Hon, MD, Chief of Vascular and Interventional Radiology, and Carole Cecchino, RN, MPA/HAD, Nurse Manager, Radiology, prepare for a radiofrequency ablation procedure.
RFA involves the placement of a needle probe (electrode) within the tumor. Generating heat via an electrical current, the probe destroys tumor cells.
"Technically, RFA is similar to percutaneous biopsies (performed through the skin), which Winthrop has expertly performed for years," explained Man Hon, MD, Winthrop's Chief of Vascular and Interventional Radiology.
RFA is considered for those living with liver tumors, metastatic colon cancer, lung and kidney masses and bone metastases.
After evaluating the lesion size and location, interventional radiologists work closely with oncologists and surgeons to determine if RFA is appropriate for the patient.
"Generally, lesions less than three centimeters, which is a little more than an inch, are considered ideal for treatment and have a high success rate," Dr. Hon explained.
If RFA is an option, physicians use CT scans, ultrasound or fluoroscopy to guide the placement of the electrode in an optimal position inside the tumor.
The current is turned on, sparing healthy tissue surrounding the targeted area.
"It was very simple and I felt nothing during the process," Mr. Palagonia explained.
Found to be well-tolerated by patients.
Can be performed with an overnight admission, or, in certain cases, as an outpatient procedure.
Most patients may resume normal routines the next day.
Rarely need general anesthesia.
Conscious sedation or deep sedation can be used.
Only tumor tissue is treated.
Can be repeated multiple times as new lesions are found.
Can relieve pain for many cancer patients.
A year after receiving RFA, PET and CAT scans of Mr. Palagonia's lung have shown no signs of recurrence and most importantly—he feels great.
"Everything's beautiful, everything's stabilized," he said. "My doctor even told me ‘take a break and don't come back for six weeks, there's no need'." Offering a comprehensive program of prevention and treatments for those diagnosed with lung cancer and people at risk of developing the disease, the Lung Cancer Center's multidisciplinary team understands the anxiety patients experience. Under the umbrella of Winthrop's Institute for Cancer Care, the Hospital's lung cancer specialists coordinate their efforts to meet the unique situations and needs of all patients and their families.
To find out more about RFA, call (516) 663-2452. For information about the Lung Cancer Center, call (516) 663-4637.