Find out how very cold temperatures are used to freeze tissue and treat prostate cancer. Learn about the side effects and potential benefits of cryotherapy.
Cryotherapy for prostate cancer is a procedure to freeze prostate tissue and cause the cancer cells to die. During cryotherapy, thin metal probes are inserted through the skin and into the prostate. The probes are filled with a gas that causes the nearby prostate tissue to freeze.
Cryotherapy might be used to treat early-stage prostate cancer that's confined to one part of the prostate if other treatments aren't an option for you. Cryotherapy for prostate cancer can also be used when the cancer has returned after initial treatment.
In the past, cryotherapy for prostate cancer was associated with more long-term side effects than were other prostate cancer treatments. Advances in technology have reduced these side effects. But long-term sexual dysfunction is still a concern with this treatment.
Cryotherapy freezes tissue within the prostate gland. This causes the prostate cancer cells to die.
Your doctor may recommend cryotherapy for prostate cancer as an option at different times during your cancer treatment and for different reasons. Cryotherapy might be recommended:
Cryotherapy for prostate cancer generally isn't recommended if you:
Researchers are studying whether cryotherapy to treat one part of the prostate might be an option for cancer that's confined to the prostate. Termed focal therapy, this strategy identifies the area of the prostate that contains the most aggressive cancer cells and treats that area only. Studies have found that focal therapy reduces the risk of side effects. But it's not clear whether it offers the same survival benefits as treatment to the entire prostate.
Side effects of cryotherapy for prostate cancer can include:
Rarely, side effects can include:
Your doctor may recommend a fluid solution (enema) to empty your colon. You may receive an antibiotic to prevent infection during the procedure.
Cryotherapy for prostate cancer is done in the hospital. You may be given a drug called a general anesthetic to put you in a sleep-like state. Sometimes a regional anesthetic is used so that you'll remain aware of your surroundings but won't feel anything in the treatment area.
Once the anesthetic takes effect, your doctor:
You'll likely be able to go home the day of your procedure, or you may spend the night in the hospital. The catheter may need to remain in place for about two weeks to allow for healing. You might also be given an antibiotic to prevent infection.
After the procedure, you may experience:
After cryotherapy for prostate cancer, you'll have regular follow-up exams as well as periodic imaging scans and laboratory testing to check your cancer's response to treatment.