Prostate cancer treatment: Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy (also called cryosurgery or cryoablation) uses extreme cold to freeze and destroy cancer cells. It is less commonly used than other treatments, so much is still being learned about the side effects and how well it works to treat prostate cancer.

How does it
work exactly?

During treatment, very thin needles are placed in the prostate, with the help of an ultrasound probe placed in your back passage (rectum). A gas is then passed down the needles to freeze and kill the cancer cells. The prostate is frozen and thawed twice during the procedure.

Cryotherapy can be done either under a general anesthetic (where you’ll be in a deep sleep), or with spinal or epidural anesthetic, where the lower half of your body is numbed (you’ll stay awake but won’t feel anything).

Being a
good candidate

Cryotherapy may be a suitable option:

  • if the cancer is only in the prostate (although doctors rarely use it as the first treatment)

  • if the cancer has returned after another treatment and is still only in the prostate

  • for men with low risk, early stage cancer confined to the prostate, who cannot receive radiation therapy (radiotherapy) or have surgery

There are 2 types of cryotherapy:

Focal cryotherapy

Focal cryotherapy is suitable if you have cancer that is found in one area of the prostate only. During focal cryotherapy, just the area containing the cancer cells is targeted with extreme cold. This method does not treat the whole prostate and fewer needles are used, to try and preserve healthy tissue. It will not cure the cancer and although there are fewer side effects, you'll need close monitoring.

Whole prostate cryotherapy

During whole prostate cryotherapy, the whole prostate is treated, and both cancer cells and healthy prostate tissue are frozen. Keep in mind that whole cryotherapy might not be available at your hospital or treatment centre.

Questions to ask
your doctor or care team

It's important that you communicate with your doctor or care team and ask for the information you need.

Here are some questions you might want to ask:

  • What are my other treatment options?

  • What type of cryotherapy will I have?

  • What will the follow-up be like to make sure my cancer is gone?

  • How much experience have you had with cryotherapy? What have the results been?

  • Will I need additional treatment?

  • What will my recovery look like?

  • What are the side effects?

When you talk to your doctor or care team, have a list of all your questions. This will help make sure you have all the information you need to make the best decisions for you.

What's next?

Now that you've read up on Prostate cancer treatment: Cryotherapy, here are some related articles to explore as you continue to build your knowledge and understanding of this topic.
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