How Irreversible Electroporation Treats Cancerous Tumors

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NanoKnife surgery is a cancer treatment for tumors that are not suitable for traditional surgery. This technique is uses a process called irreversible electroporation, or IRE, to destroy a tumor rather than remove it. Here is an overview of this type of cancer treatment and why it is beneficial.

How IRE Destroys Tumors

IRE uses electrical currents to damage tumor cells so the cells die off. The procedure doesn't involve the use of radiation or freezing. Instead, small wires or probes are inserted through your skin to the location of the tumor. An electric current passes from the wires to a precise location in the tumor so that no surrounding healthy tissues are damaged. The current causes the tumor cells damage that leads to the death of the tumor which is then slowly reabsorbed and removed by your body in a natural process.

Why The Surgery Is Chosen

There are many approaches to cancer surgery depending on the type and location of a tumor. In some cases, it isn't possible to remove a tumor that is too close to vessels or other organs. Other times a tumor may have invaded a healthy organ too far to make removal possible.

This is particularly true with pancreatic cancer. It's often not possible to remove tumors in the pancreas because in part, the tumors are not found when they're in the early stages. IRE can treat advanced cancer of the pancreas, liver, and other soft tissues in the body without causing any damage to blood vessels or the organ itself since the electrical currents only strike the tumor.

How The Surgery Is Done

The procedure requires a hospital stay and general anesthesia. You'll be asleep the entire time and a minimally invasive technique is used so you'll recover quickly. The doctor guides the wires into the right location using an ultrasound or some other technique that allows the doctor to view the wires on a monitor as they're inserted. The treatment could take a couple of hours to complete. IRE is usually done through small incisions so you don't have to be cut open. This makes your hospital stay for recovery much shorter than with traditional surgery.

IRE can be repeated when necessary if the tumors grow back. The irreversible electroporation procedure is not for everyone. Since it delivers a shock to your body, you might not be a suitable candidate if you have a pacemaker or certain other medical conditions. Your doctor will evaluate your case on an individual basis and determine what treatment or combination of treatments is the best way to treat your cancer.