Cryotherapy, or cryosurgery as it is sometimes called, is a minimally invasive treatment option for both prostate and kidney cancers. It involves freezing the tumors in order to effectively kill the cancer cells. Since the procedure is highly effective and not as invasive as surgery or as dangerous as radiation, we are pleased to offer it to our patients.

The Procedure – What to Expect

The cryotherapy procedure begins with anesthetic, either general or local. For prostate cancer patients, the procedure continues with a warming catheter inserted into the urethra to protect it from the intensely cold temperatures that will occur. Small needles, known as cryoprobes, are placed into the tumors through the skin. Ultrasound images guide the placement of the needles within the kidney or prostate. A cold gas, such as argon, is infused into the tissue through these needles. This freezes the tissue, cutting off its blood supply and effectively killing it. In kidney cancer patients, just the cancer is targeted. In prostate cancer patients, the entire gland is targeted.

Temperature sensors monitor the temperatures of the tissue. Once it is cold enough, the cryoprobes are flooded with a warming gas, such as helium, to thaw the tissue. The process is repeated to ensure the complete destruction of the cancerous tissue.

After Cryotherapy – Recovery and Risks

Most cryotherapy patients remain in the hospital overnight. A catheter is sometimes required to allow the bladder to empty while the area that was treated heals. Otherwise most patients return to their normal activities within a few days of receiving treatment.

One benefit of choosing cryotherapy is the fact that it involves no surgery or radiation. There are some potential risks, as with any cancer treatment option. Prostate cancer patients do run a risk of erectile dysfunction after cryotherapy, but this risk is being reduced as the treatment methods are improving. The risk of incontinence, which is a common problem associated with other prostate cancer treatment options, is greatly reduced for patients who receive cryotherapy. While it is rare, injury to the patient’s rectum can occur as a result of cryotherapy treatment for prostate cancer.

Cryotherapy and Kidney Cancer

One huge benefit of using cryotherapy to treat kidney cancer is the fact that the kidney remains intact. Unfortunately, not all kidney cancer patients are candidates for cryotherapy. Patients with tumors that are smaller than seven centimeters in diameter can have cryotherapy treatment for their kidney cancer. The location of the tumors is also important, as the treatment cannot be used on tumors that lie close to other important organs.