Cryotherapy is a promising newer treatment option for prostate cancer. During the procedure, a doctor freezes prostate tissue at extremely low temperatures. This causes cancer cells to die.
After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the
More traditional treatment approaches, such as radiation therapy and surgery to remove the prostate, have various negative effects that can affect sexual function and quality of life.
However, because cryotherapy is minimally invasive and causes fewer long-term problems, doctors may recommend it to treat early stage prostate cancer.
This article looks at cryotherapy for prostate cancer, including its benefits and risks. It also explores some alternative prostate cancer treatment options.
Cryotherapy involves using cold temperatures to freeze and destroy tissue affected by cancer. The procedure is also known as cryoablation or cryosurgery. It uses liquid nitrogen, liquid nitrous oxide, or argon gas to achieve the freezing temperature necessary for treatment.
In prostate cancer, doctors use cryotherapy as a minimally invasive procedure to target either the whole prostate or specific parts of the prostate.
Using ultrasound technology, a doctor inserts small probes called cryoneedles into the prostate and special needles to check the temperature. They then insert cool gas that freezes and damages the prostate gland, killing cancer cells and helping prevent disease progression.
Because the procedure is less invasive than traditional therapies, people typically experience less pain and shorter hospital stays.
There have been few head-to-head trials comparing cryotherapy with traditional therapies for prostate cancer.
These results suggest that cryotherapy is an effective treatment option for certain types of prostate cancer.
The American Urology Association publishes guidelines with recommendations for prostate cancer treatment. The guidelines recommend cryotherapy for those who have low or intermediate risk prostate cancer.
Oncologists may use cryotherapy:
- in prostate cancer that has not spread outside of the prostate gland to cure the cancer
- in prostate cancer that has spread to help reduce symptoms
- in prostate cancer that has been unresponsive to other therapies
- in people who cannot undergo surgery or radiation therapy
Cryotherapy can be a suitable option for some people, as it is minimally invasive and effective in specific individuals. The following sections look at some benefits in more detail.
Other procedures, such as surgery and radiation therapy, are complex and involved. They may include preparation, hospital stays, side effects, and complications post-procedure.
Cryotherapy typically has fewer side effects and requires a shorter recovery time.
Although cryotherapy requires more research, it seems that the procedure is highly effective for some individuals.
As with any procedure, cryotherapy has some potential risks.
Cryotherapy can cause short-term side effects, such as:
- difficulty urinating
- urinary tract infections
- pain or swelling of the penis or scrotum
- blood in the urine
Some long-term side effects of cryotherapy include:
- difficulty urinating
- erectile dysfunction
- a hole developing between the urinary tract and the rectum
- narrowing of the urinary tract
- shedding of dead tissue in the urinary tract
Although cryotherapy can be effective for certain people, it is not an ideal treatment option for everyone. For this reason, guidelines recommend cryotherapy only for people with low and medium risk prostate cancer.
Typically, doctors do not recommend cryotherapy for individuals with progressive disease.
People who have low risk prostate cancer typically undergo active surveillance, or watchful waiting. On the other hand, advanced prostate cancer may require removal of the prostate, called radical prostatectomy, or radiation therapy.
These techniques are well-established and effective, but they may have adverse effects and effects on quality of life. This has led to the development of new treatment options, including cryotherapy.
The sections below look at active surveillance, radical prostatectomy, and radiation therapy in more detail.
The doctor checks specific metrics, such as the Gleason score and PSA level. If either of these increases, it may indicate the need for further treatment. However, if there are no changes, the doctor may continue to monitor disease progression.
The reason for withholding medical intervention is that it can prevent treatment effects on the individual’s sexual, urinary, or bowel function.
Radical prostatectomy involves surgically removing the prostate and surrounding tissue. It is a standard treatment option when trying to cure prostate cancer that has not spread.
The surgery removes the entire prostate gland and surrounding tissue either through open radical prostatectomy or laparoscopically. These procedures differ in technique, potential side effects, and recovery.
Radiation therapy uses
In EBRT, a radiologist sends radioactive beams directly to a cancerous tumor. Certain types of EBRT have precise radiation doses and directions, which decreases damage to healthy tissue and nearby organs.
In brachytherapy, radiation does not have to pass through other tissues to get to its target. Instead, brachytherapy utilizes a radioactive substance known as a seed that a doctor implants in or near the cancerous tumor.
Doctors can use EBRT and brachytherapy separately or together for maximal treatment effect.
Cryotherapy involves using cold temperatures to help treat many types of medical conditions and cancers, including prostate cancer.
Cryotherapy may be an effective option for people with low or intermediate risk prostate cancer.
Doctors may recommend this treatment option because it is minimally invasive and causes few side effects. However, like any procedure, there are some risks, including tissue damage or problems with the urinary tract.
Other treatment options include surgery to remove the prostate, radiation therapy, and active surveillance.