Liver cancer rates are on the rise, which is why doctors at the UCSD Medical Center are glad to have a new tumor tool.
On the front lines in the fight against liver cancer is a machine that's making waves - microwaves. With just a small incision through a patient's skin, Dr. Marquis Hart can insert a microwave wand. He uses an orange to demonstrate how the process works, because that's about the size and shape of actual liver tumors.
"Oh yes, that would not be uncommon to see tumors about this size," Dr. Hart said.
Microwave ablation cooks and kills unwanted tissue in a non-invasive, fast fashion.
"That's what gives us the advantage because some patients, because of their liver disease are so sick that they can't tolerate a large operation," Dr. Hart said.
It's important, because since 1988 liver cancer incidence rates have increased by 37 percent, with mortality rates up 31 percent. So far this new technology has been successfully used on 17 patients.
"In some cases the tumor is completely destroyed by the microwave energy," Dr. Hart said.
Because cells inside the human body can't handle the heat, the cancer often calls it quits. It takes about 20 minutes to zap the tumor, and the entire treatment is over for the patient in about an hour.
Doctors say if you received a blood transfusion before 1990 or suffer from obesity, you are at risk of liver cancer and need to schedule regular check-ups.
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