Using Heat or Cold to Destroy Cancer Cells

Ablation is a minimally invasive procedure used to destroy tumor tissue by applying either intense heat or cold to the tumor. Centennial Hills Hospital is the first hospital in Nevada to perform Percutaneous Ablation for early stage non-small-cell lung cancer in medically inoperable patients. Eligible patients include those with lung tumors, as well as early-stage or recurrent lung cancer.

How Ablation Works

During this procedure, surgeons use computed tomography to help guide them as they place one or more thin needles in or around the tumor. The needles produce extreme heat or cold to destroy the cancerous cells.

Thermal ablation is used to treat tumors smaller than three centimeters. If the tumor is larger, we may combine thermal ablation with external beam radiation to treat the tumor.


  • Less invasive than open surgery with fewer side effects and complications. No surgical incision is needed.
  • Can be used on patients who are not candidates for surgery, such as those who have multiple tumors.
  • Lung function is better preserved after ablation than after surgical removal of a tumor.
  • Effectively destroys the central part of the tumor, which tends to not respond well to radiotherapy.
  • If a tumor comes back, the procedure can be repeated if necessary.
  • Chemotherapy may resume almost immediately after ablation.


Most people do not experience complications after the procedure, but there is always a risk with any procedure. The risk of ablation include:

  • Air leak in the lung
  • Collapsed lung
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fatigue
  • Low-grade fever
  • Pain in the chest wall

*Individual results may vary. There are risks associated with any surgical procedure. Talk with your doctor about these risks to find out if minimally invasive surgery is right for you.