People often refer to cryotherapy as cryosurgery, however, the procedure itself is not actually a form of surgery. In fact, the way it functions is by freezing the prostate to destroy cancer cells. In most cases, doctors resort to cryotherapy if radiation therapy has failed to stop cancer.
Other situations doctors may opt for cryotherapy instead of traditional surgery, would be when a patient cannot undergo surgery or even radiation therapy. The predominant reason being that cryotherapy is less invasive. Even so, in most scenarios, doctors won’t usually go for cryotherapy.
In this article, we will outline some of the advantages and disadvantages of cryotherapy. First, let’s go into a little more detail about the procedure itself.
What exactly is cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy is a procedure that is less invasive than surgery. First of all, doctors apply spinal anesthesia in order to numb the lower half of a given patient’s body. Sometimes doctors provide general anesthesia.
Following numbing the patient’s body, doctors insert needles through the skin between the anus and testicles. In order to aim the needles correctly, doctors make use of ultrasound imaging. Once the needles are in place, freezing gases vent into the prostate via the needles. These gases will then proceed to destroy the patient’s prostate. Simultaneously, mildly heated water is navigated through the urethra to keep these areas from freezing. Doctors undertake this part of the procedure with a catheter which remains in the patient for a few weeks throughout their recovery.
Another advantage of this procedure is that it does a lot less damage to surrounding tissues. This also means the procedure results in less loss of blood and a brief recovery period.
Are there reasons not to undergo this procedure?
There are some side effects to cryotherapy, and these are usually exacerbated for patients who have undergone radiation therapy. Below we outline the most common side effects of cryotherapy and how they compare to surgery:
- Blood present in urine for a couple of days
- The area where the needles were placed can become somewhat sore
- The penis and scrotum may swell
- The freezing procedure may cause issues with bladder and rectum function. However, this should return to normal for most men once the body has healed.
- Freezing is more likely to cause erectile dysfunction in men than surgeries like radical prostatectomy. This is due to the fact that freezing can affect nerves around that area. There are, however, treatments and measures to cope with these issues. We will cover some of these in upcoming posts
- Urinary incontinence is very rare after cryotherapy but can happen. It is known that this side effect is more common in men who have undergone radiation therapy prior to this procedure.
Although there are side effects, one of the benefits of cryotherapy is that recovery is significantly faster than with surgery. In fact, lots of men are able to leave the hospital on the same day. It is also possible to stay the night in the hospital though if necessary.
Fortunately too, most of these side effects pass after healing. If you or someone you know has undergone cryotherapy and they are post-procedural issues, make sure they visit their doctor. Treatment and recovery don’t end in the hospital.
Check our resources section for further information. Where you can also find inspiration from success and survival stories. Or we can help you connect with a prostate cancer survivor.
If you have any questions, or just want to talk, call us at our toll-free hotline: 1(833)HEAL-MEN.