What is cryotherapy for throat cancer?

Cryotherapy, also known as cryoablation or cryosurgery, is a throat cancer treatment that uses extreme cold to destroy tumors. During the procedure, your doctor will use cold gases, such as liquid nitrogen or argon, to freeze the tumor, causing the cancerous cells to die.

Who is a candidate for cryotherapy for throat cancer

Cryotherapy may be a treatment option for patients with throat cancer that has not spread outside the primary tumor site. It is most appropriate for patients who are not candidates for surgery.

Benefits of cryotherapy for throat cancer

There are many benefits of treating throat cancer with cryotherapy. Benefits will be specific to the patient but may include:

  • Less invasive and less harmful to nearby healthy tissue
  • It is a potential option for patients who cannot withstand surgery
  • The procedure can be repeated as necessary if new tumors grow
  • May be used in combination with other treatments
  • Many patients can be treated on an outpatient basis

Side effects associated with cryotherapy for throat cancer

Although the side effects of cryotherapy are typically less severe than those with radiation therapy or surgery, they can affect your day-to-day life.

Side effects may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Problems swallowing or speaking

What to expect during cryotherapy for throat cancer

During cryotherapy, your doctor will use imaging-guidance to insert a probe or catheter into or near the cancerous tumor. When in position, your doctor will inject liquid nitrogen or argon through the probe or catheter. The probe will develop an ice ball at the tip that will freeze the tumor while the catheter will spray the cold gas over the affected area to freeze it. Your doctor may need to use more than one probe to deliver the cold gas to various parts of the tumor. After the procedure, the frozen tissue will thaw and will be absorbed by the body.

Results of cryotherapy for throat cancer

The long-term effectiveness of cryotherapy has not been established. Research has shown effectiveness in treating tumors that can be seen using imaging, but it is not as effective in identifying cancer that has spread.

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