What is cryotherapy for liver cancer?

Cryotherapy, also known as cryosurgery or cryoablation, is a liver cancer treatment option that involves using extremely cold temperatures (produced by liquid nitrogen) to kill cancerous tissue.

The goal of cryotherapy for liver cancer is to prolong your survival rate and is not expected to be a permanent cure.

Who is a candidate for a cryotherapy for liver cancer

Cryotherapy as a liver cancer treatment might be recommended if:

  • The tumor is a primary or metastatic liver tumor
  • The liver cancer is unresectable or not responding to other treatments
  • Traditional liver cancer surgery is not an option due to other health issues

Advantages of cryotherapy for liver cancer

Cryotherapy for liver cancer has many advantages over traditional cancer treatments, including:

  • Less invasive than traditional surgery
  • Complications are minimized
  • Shorter hospital stay required
  • Faster recovery time
  • Can be performed under local anesthesia (in some cases)
  • Reduce damage to nearby healthy tissue
  • The procedure can be repeated as necessary
  • Can be performed in combination with other treatment options

Disadvantages of cryotherapy for liver cancer

As a newly developed treatment, long-term effectiveness of cryotherapy for liver cancer is uncertain. Because of this, insurance may not cover the procedure. Additionally, this type of treatment is so targeted it can miss microscopic cancer spread throughout the liver.

Risks of a cryotherapy for liver cancer

Complications associated with cryotherapy for liver cancer are typically less severe than those associated with surgery or radiation therapy. The severity of side effects will depend on the location of the liver cancer tumor.

Complications may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Infection in the liver
  • Bleeding in the chest cavity and/or abdomen

What to expect during a cryotherapy for liver cancer

During cryotherapy of a liver cancer tumor, liquid nitrogen is injected through a hollow instrument that is placed into the tumor. Your doctor will use imaging technology such as ultrasound or MRI to guide the instrument and monitor the progress of the procedure to minimize damage to healthy tissue.

Once in the correct position, a probe will be frozen to negative 190 degrees Celsius for approximately 15 minutes. If it is a larger tumor, you may need numerous probes that deliver liquid nitrogen to different areas of the tumor. After the procedure, the frozen tissue thaws and is natural absorbed by the body. In many cases, a second treatment is needed.

Recovery from cryosurgery for liver cancer

You will likely need to stay in the hospital overnight after having cryosurgery for liver cancer. You will be closely monitored in the hospital for post-procedure complications. Before discharge, your doctor will provide detailed discharge instructions including:

  • Pain management options
  • Follow-up appointment schedule
  • When you can resume your activity level
  • How to care for your incision site

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