Thyroid RFA, a first for Providence, gives patients a non-surgical treatment pathway at Saint John’s Health Center

November 1, 2021

Dr. Melanie Goldfarb shrinks benign thyroid tumors with new, cutting-edge procedure

SANTA MONICA, CA – An endocrine surgeon at Saint John’s Cancer Institute (SJCI) successfully conducted the first thyroid Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) for Providence. The minimally invasive and seldomly available procedure is designed to reduce the size of non-cancerous nodules.

Melanie Goldfarb, MD, the director of the Center for Endocrine Tumors and Disorders at SJCI, carried out the procedure on Oct. 21 at Providence Saint John’s Health Center, which lasted less than an hour — an expected timeframe for this outpatient procedure.

“There’s a lot of potential for this technology,” said Dr. Goldfarb, who noted the commonality of abnormal growths in the thyroid. “This procedure isn’t widely available yet, and it won’t be appropriate for everyone, but it gives patients a really reasonable alternative to surgery.”

RFA is a relatively nascent practice that uses radio waves to systematically burn and kill unwanted tissue. As of now, this technique is only approved for benign nodules that are symptomatic, growing and/or of cosmetic concern. Using technology developed by Taewoong Medical, Dr. Goldfarb’s patients who undergo RFA should expect the procedure to last 15-40 minutes depending on the size of the lesion, and then will be kept another 15-20 minutes for observation.

While RFA is a proven method to shrink and destroy thyroid tumors, Dr. Goldfarb said the procedure is not as effective as surgery.

“It’s not as definitive (as surgery) — nodules can grow back — but it’s still very effective,” she said. “The side effects of RFA are minimal compared to the alternative, which can sometimes lead to patients having to take medications the rest of their lives if it means having to remove the thyroid.”

Although Dr. Goldfarb is hopeful this technology becomes more prevalent, she is a staunch proponent that the procedure should only be conducted by medical experts with a focus on treating thyroids.

“Thyroid RFA is new so you want to ensure your medical team has a good grasp on what they’re doing and why,” she said. “But under the right hands and with appropriate counseling, it’s a procedure that I’d feel comfortable having done on myself or a family member.

“It’s so exciting to bring RFA to Saint John’s and to our community who can greatly benefit by having this option available to them.”

Patients who think they could be a candidate for RFA should talk to their health care provider or contact Dr. Goldfarb at 310-829-8751 or by visiting


About Providence
Providence is a national, not-for-profit Catholic health system comprising a diverse family of organizations and driven by a belief that health is a human right. With 52 hospitals, over 1,000 physician clinics, senior services, supportive housing, and much other health and educational services, the health system and its partners employ more than 120,000 caregivers serving communities across seven states – Alaska, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, and Washington, with system offices in Renton, Wash., and Irvine, Calif. Learn about our vision of health for a better world at

About Providence Southern California
Providence Southern California is Southern California’s largest health system with 11 hospitals, more than 100 clinics, outpatient centers, TrinityCare Hospice and its TrinityKids Care pediatric hospice, Providence High School, home health care services, eight wellness centers, telehealth and numerous physician groups in its Southern California Region. Providence is committed to an enduring mission of outreach to the poor and vulnerable, and last year contributed $485 million in services, programs and charity care to those in need.

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