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May 16, 2017 | Cancer Center • Family Medicine • Hematology-Oncology
Cryotherapy, also known as cryosurgery or cryoablation, is a medical procedure that uses extremely cold temperatures to deaden and destroy tissues. Cryotherapy can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including prostate cancer. When used to treat prostate cancer, cryotherapy involves freezing tissue in the prostate, causing cancer cells to die. It can also be used as an alternative to surgical removal of the prostate gland itself.
Also called cryosurgery, cryotherapy actually is not a type of surgery—it’s a minimally invasive procedure. There are some side effects possible, but technological advances have limited many of these side effects.
There are two typical situations where cryotherapy might be used as treatment for prostate cancer:
There are a few situations where cryotherapy might not be right for men with prostate cancer:
Side effects of cryotherapy for prostate cancer can often be worse in men who have had previous radiation therapy. Side effects include:
Slightly rarer side effects include:
Preparation for cryotherapy is simple. Your doctor might recommend an enema, a fluid solution to empty the colon before the procedure. You also might receive an antibiotic to prevent infection.
Before your procedure, you’ll be given a spinal or epidural anesthesia (numbs the lower half of the body) or general anesthesia (you go to sleep). From here, several steps will take place:
After a cryotherapy procedure, you may have to spend a night in the hospital, though you’re likely to be able to go home the day of the procedure. The catheter in your bladder is often left in place for a couple weeks to allow the bladder to empty during recovery. You may be given an antibiotic to prevent infection. Blood loss for prostate cancer is much less significant than typical surgery, as is your typical hospital stay, recovery period and pain level.
A few after-effects you may see following your procedure include:
You’ll receive regular follow-up exams, periodic imaging scans and lab testing after your procedure to determine the cancer’s response to treatment. Because this procedure has only been in use for a period of several years, long-term outcomes are currently not known.
If you have questions about cryotherapy or want to investigate it as a possible option, speak to your doctor and they will determine the most appropriate course of treatment.
I practice the full range of family medicine including obstetrics, pediatrics, adolescent medicine and adult medicine. I also practice some orthopedics, remove lumps and bumps, and perform colposcopy, cryotherapy and vasectomies. Due to the volume of deliveries we do, my practice has evolved to be more centered on women and children’s medicine, but I enjoy all aspects of family medicine.
“Cryotherapy for Prostate Cancer.” American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/treating/cryosurgery.html
“Cryotherapy for prostate cancer.” The Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cryotherapy-for-prostate-cancer/home/ovc-20201798
Maria Oneida, MD
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.