NanoKnife Treatment

Surgeons performing a NanoKnife ablation procedure to treat cancer

What is NanoKnife Surgery?

NanoKnife or irreversible electroporation (IRE) is a treatment pathway to remove cancerous tissue, approved by the FDA. Developed for over a decade, IRE is an advanced system that preserves healthy tissue with minimal impact on the body. This treatment can be accessed through the OncoloMed network of hospitals and specialist oncologists.

The process involves two electrodes or needles being guided into place near the tumour by ultrasound or CT scan. Once in position, an electrical current is passed between the two electrodes, destroying the cancerous cells.

There are a variety of benefits to this type of treatment, as it is effective without exposing the body to radiation or thermal heating. The procedure is not a lengthy one and is performed under general anaesthetic for patient comfort.

OncoloMed can offer a range of NanoKnife locations for your treatment so that you can choose the best clinical setting to receive your care if this treatment is the most suitable for you. So you can concentrate on your own health and your loved ones, OncoloMed can facilitate treatment so you don’t have to worry about finding where to access it yourself.

Learn more about our specialist cancer clinics and oncologists in our network.

What Types of Cancer is NanoKnife More Commonly Used to Treat?

NanoKnife is an ablation (surgical removal) procedure that may be a viable option for patients with inoperable tumours or those that are difficult to access. Some patients may have already had a range of therapies to treat their tumours before their doctors consider IRE a relevant option.

While NanoKnife is an effective cancer treatment, this may not be the best choice for your particular circumstances. Your oncologist will be able to give you information on the best treatment pathways for your individual situation. Why not get a second opinion to make sure that your treatment choice is the right one for you?

Pancreatic Cancer

Irreversible electroporation or NanoKnife may be suitable for patients with locally advanced pancreatic cancer. This type of cancer is one which has spread to either the blood vessels or the lymph nodes next to the pancreas. As a result, these tumours cannot usually be removed through traditional surgery.

Some patients with borderline resectable pancreatic cancer could be offered this treatment. This is where the cancer has grown very close to the blood vessels surrounding the pancreas. Your doctor will let you know if this is a viable option for you.

Prostate Cancer

Patients with prostate cancer may find that medical care with NanoKnife or irreversible electroporation opens up new treatment options for them. This is because it can help preserve and protect important parts of the body which may be damaged using more traditional therapies. Current medical pathways may lead to difficulties in bladder control or erectile function and patients often do not suffer the same issues with the NanoKnife system.

Liver Cancer

For some cases of liver cancer (colorectal liver metastases or hepatocellular carcinoma), NanoKnife is considered by medical practitioners to be an appropriate treatment. For these types of liver cancer, it can be used instead of radiofrequency ablation (RFA) and microwave ablation (MWA) when the tumour cannot be reached through traditional surgery.

No one treatment may be suitable for every individual and every type of cancer. You should discuss with your care team on the most appropriate treatment option for you. 

How is NanoKnife Surgery Performed?

This treatment is performed under general anaesthetic for patient comfort and takes a relatively short amount of time in comparison to more traditional surgical options.

NanoKnife surgery does not involve hugely invasive procedures or knives. The treatment is precision-delivered through small needles which are carefully located next to tumours. These needles are usually guided by ultrasound so that your surgeon can position the needles in the optimum site.

Once in place, the needles pass an electric current between them, damaging the walls of cancerous cells until they disappear and die.

As irreversible electroporation is minimally intrusive as a treatment, patients often recover quickly and are normally discharged on the same or next day. A significant benefit is that there is little scarring or pain from this type of procedure.

How Often Should the Treatment be Performed?

Once the surgery is complete and you are ready to go home, you will be given information about a follow up appointment to assess the clinical outcome of the treatment.

Several weeks after your surgery, repeat imaging will be performed to confirm the effects of the treatment.

This aftercare is similar to other ablation procedures, so that your care team will be able to explore treatment efficacy and any next steps.

You can find out more about how the treatment is performed through NanoKnife’s own website.

Potential Side Effects of NanoKnife

Irreversible electroporation or IRE is usually a minimally invasive and rapid procedure which does not significantly impact on the body.

However, there may be a few side effects that you experience after surgery. These are usually minor and only last a few days at most:

  • You may have some pain or discomfort for a few days. This will be eased by pain relief prescribed by your doctor.
  • Some people may feel sick, experience heartburn or be sick. These side effects won’t last long and usually pass quickly.
  • Bleeding or bruising around the needle insertion sites can also take place after the surgery. These should disappear, but if they do not, further procedures may be necessary to deal with bleeding.
  • A small number of people may have a blood clot after surgery. This is extremely rare and will be treated. In the unusual event a patient does have a blood clot, it may impact on future surgical options. Your care team will discuss this in detail with you.
  • There is a very small risk of death associated with IRE.

Preparing for NanoKnife Surgery

Before treatment takes place, your care team will discuss the procedure with you, so that you are fully prepared. Every patient is different, so an individual plan is important. It is a good idea to ask any questions you may have during these discussions, so that you are confident of your treatment.

Preparation beforehand may include information on:

  • What medication you are on and if you need to stop taking it before the procedure.
  • What scans and imaging should take place before surgery.
  • When to stop eating and drinking before the treatment.
  • What aftercare you may require.

Post-treatment Care

In comparison to many other cancer treatment options, NanoKnife ablation surgery has a relatively short recovery and discharge time.

Some patients may require a catheter for a few days but this is easily removed when appropriate.

Your oncologist will advise you about all aspects of pain management. It is likely that the procedure will be pain-free. Talk to your care team for support with any pain.

It is a good idea to take care of yourself and allow your body to recover fully post-surgery. Allowing yourself to rest, sleep well and nourish your body with good food is important when undergoing this treatment.

Coping After the Treatment & Pain Management

Signs the Treatment is Working

You will be invited for follow-up appointments to ensure that the treatment has been successful. These may include the following:

  • Post-operative tests such as MRI scans to see that your tumour is shrinking.
  • Ongoing pathology testing, blood tests.
  • Repeat biopsies.

Your doctor will let you know if any follow-up treatments are necessary.

Nutrition Advice When Undergoing NanoKnife

Nutrition is an important aspect of everyone’s health, especially if you are undergoing or recovering from cancer treatments. Cancer patients can often have very specific nutritional needs. As a result of treatment, patients may need to take extra nutritional care to support their body in recovery.

Try the following tips to support your body during treatment and recovery:

  • Try to limit greasy, fried and high-fat foods.
  • Consume fat from healthy sources, such as olive oil.
  • Aim for 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day.
  • Keep drinking fluids throughout the day to stay hydrated.
  • Eat small, frequent meals to feel energised.
  • Try to avoid alcohol.
  • Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity every day.

Always speak to your care team to find out if there is a specific diet you should be following. Alternatively, provide sound advice on nutrition for cancer patients before and after treatment.

Alternatives to NanoKnife Surgery

Your care team will discuss all options for your treatment plan with you so that you can make an informed decision about the best route forward. Every person is different, and treatment should be personalised to suit each patient. There are positive and negative aspects to all procedures and not every treatment may be right for you, so it is good to consider all potential pathways with your oncologist.

Explore Your Treatment Options

We have an excellent and extensive partnership network of hospitals and clinics so that you can access the right treatment with ease.

There may be a range of treatments that could suit your situation. With OncoloMed, you can quickly achieve second opinions on potential cancer treatments and your care plan. We partner with global leaders in cancer care so that you have instant contact with experienced oncologists to explore your options and choose the right treatment for your situation.

Get a Second Opinion through OncoloMed

Our expert guidance and advice mean that you can focus on your health and looking after your family without worry or unanswered questions about treatment. Get in touch with our caring, skilled team to discuss your condition or that of a loved one to find out how we can help.

Find More Information

Learn more about a range of innovative cancer treatment options that we offer through our network.  

Surgeons performing a NanoKnife ablation procedure to treat cancer
Cancer patient smiling with her husband, walking along a beach

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