• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

New procedure kills tumors with microwaves

January 12, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Some local doctors are using microwave energy to kill cancerous tumors and also keep them from returning.Louis Bershad is a man of the movies.

"I love the movies. The old ones even more than the new ones today, because I'm a film collector and a film buff," said Louis.

Even though Louis owns more than 1,500 films, this Hollywood talent manager was not ready for the plot change in his own story.

"He just picked up the MRI and looked at it and said it's definitely cancer, and when he said that, the meeting became a silent movie. I could see his lips moving, but I heard nothing. It was absolute silence," said Louis.

Louis had kidney cancer. Surgery scared him, so Dr. Peter Julien, chief of thoracic imaging at L.A.'s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, gave him the option of microwaving the tumor.

"It basically cooks the tumor to death," explained Julien.

Microwaving tumors, or radio-frequency ablation, uses a needle that's inserted into the middle of the tumor. Guided by CT scans, doctors use electrical currents to heat the tumor.

"The energy that's delivered to the tumor is right at the needle tip. It's very intense energy that can heat up the tumor over 150 degrees. It can heat up the tumor basically to boiling," described Julien.

Doctors say there's no incision, minimal to no damage to surrounding organs and patients can go home the same day.

"The best ending you could have. Ending is a bad word. Let's just say the film is over, but the life goes on," said Louis.

Louis is back to job in Hollywood. Only now, he has a new favorite film.

"The best film of all is when you get your MRI from your doctor, and he says there's no cancer. That's the best film I've ever seen," said Louis.

The radio frequency ablation procedure is also being used for liver and lung cancer.

Doctors say it's a good option for patients who are not healthy enough or too old for surgery.