What is cryotherapy for prostate cancer?

Cryosurgery, also known as cryoablation, is a prostate cancer treatment that uses very cold gas to freeze abnormal tissue and kill cancerous cells. During the procedure, your doctor will insert small needles into the prostate to inject a cold gas into the affected area. Another gas will then be injected into the area to reheat the tissue.

Who is a candidate for cryotherapy for prostate cancer?

Cryotherapy is used to treat prostate cancer in the following cases:

  • Treating early-stage prostate cancer that has not spread to other parts of the body
  • Where cancer has relapsed after being treated by radiation therapy
  • In men who are too weak to undergo more invasive treatment options
  • For symptom relief in patients with advanced cancer that has spread to other organs

If you have a large prostate gland, you may not be a candidate for cryotherapy. Your Mercy Health doctor and cancer care team will evaluate your case and determine if you are a candidate.

Risks associated with cryotherapy for prostate cancer

Complications from cryotherapy for prostate cancer include:

  • Blood in urine
  • Swelling in the penis or scrotum
  • Infection
  • Pain or burning sensation when urinating or having a bowel movement
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Urinary incontinence - this side effect is more prevalent in men who had radiation therapy prior to cryotherapy for prostate cancer
  • Develop a fistula (abnormal connection between the rectum and the bladder) - this can cause urine to leak into the rectum

Side effects from cryotherapy for prostate cancer are often more intense if you have had radiation therapy prior to cryotherapy.

Advantages of cryotherapy for prostate cancer

Cryotherapy is a less invasive prostate cancer treatment option than other prostate cancer treatments. Most patients will experience less blood loss and pain compared to traditional surgery. You also typically have a shorter hospital stay and quicker recovery period.

What to expect during cryotherapy for prostate cancer

Before the cryotherapy procedure, your cancer care team will give you a general anesthesia or a spinal epidural to ensure you do not feel the procedure. Once you are properly sedated, your doctor will insert small needles into the prostate using ultrasound guidance to locate the affected area.

When in position, your doctor will inject a cold gas to freeze the abnormal tissue. Another gas will then be injected into the area to reheat the tissue. The cycles of freezing and reheating kill the cancerous cells. Your doctor will carefully monitor the prostate during the process to ensure healthy tissue is not damaged.

Although the name cryosurgery implies this is a surgical procedure, surgery is not involved in this prostate cancer treatment option.

Recovery from cryotherapy for prostate cancer

Although most patients require an overnight stay in the hospital after the procedure, some patients can go home the day of the procedure.

After the procedure, your cancer care team will closely monitor your vital signs in a hospital room. You may need pain medication and/or antibiotics to relieve pain and prevent infection. You will be encouraged to move around the hospital room as you can. Your catheter will be left in place for as long as three weeks to help drain while the prostate heals.

Before discharge, your doctor will give you detailed instructions including:

  • How to care for the catheter
  • Follow-up appointment schedules
  • How to care for the affected area

If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor right away:

  • Fever
  • Pain, redness, swelling or bleeding around needle insertion site
  • Trouble urinating when catheter is taken out
  • Changes to your urine output or color

Find a prostate cancer specialist nearby

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