Cryotherapy for cancer: The Emergence of a Less Invasive Treatment

Cryotherapy for cancer, or sometimes called cryosurgery, is an emerging treatment option for this ruthless disease. Initially, cryotherapy has widely been used by athletes to achieve different results. However, for cancer treatment, it is relatively new.

What is cancer treatment to you? It has to be either chemotherapy or radiation therapy. But the emerging use of cancer cryotherapy is promising. And what is better is it is gentler to your cells.

So, what exactly is cryosurgery definition? How is it done? What kind of cancers does it treat? Is it effective? Read on to find all you need to know about cancer cryotherapy below.

Cryotherapy for Cancer at a Glance

cryotherapy for cancer at a glance

Cryosurgery (1) uses extreme cold to treat either external or internal tumors. The frigid temperature is produced by either liquid nitrogen or argon gas is applied to the cancer cells to freeze them.

The external tumors are those on the skin surface, and the treatment is pretty direct. The internal tumors can either be in the tissues or the bones, and your doctor will have to use imaging guidance to get to the tumors.

Sometimes, cryosurgery is used to destroy cancer cells when they reemerge after radiation therapy. Besides, it is now a popular option for men in their early stages of prostate cancer. If in the early stages of prostate cancer, but for some health reasons, you cannot go for radiation therapy or surgery, your doctor may recommend cryosurgery. Note that most doctors do not use cryosurgery as the first prostate cancer treatment.

How is Cryotherapy for Cancer Done?

how is cryotherapy for cancer done
Cryosurgery: frozen cancer cells

If the tumors are external, the doctor uses extreme cold treatment directly on the tissues. This will instantly freeze them.

The procedure for the internal cancer cells is as follows:

  • Administration of spinal or epidural anesthesia for the lower half of the body or general anesthesia
  • The doctor uses transrectal ultrasound to guide a cryoprobe into the body towards the affected tissues
  • Extremely cold gases are released through the cryoprobe to the tissue
  • The doctor keeps an eye on the process using ultrasound to ensure the surrounding cells are not damaged
  • Warm salty water may be passed to the catheter to shield the surrounding cells from damage

In the case of prostate cancer treatment, the catheter may be left in place to help you empty your bladder while still recovering.

Are you wondering what will happen to the frozen tissue after the treatment? Your immune system will expel them from your body over the next few weeks after treatment. External tumors form a scab on the skin.

What Types of Cryotherapy for Cancer Exists?

Cryosurgery is used to treat various types of cancers. Some may be precancerous, while some may be non-cancerous. It can also be used to treat low-grade cancerous tumors in the bones, liver tumors, and non-cancerous tumors in the bone.

We review the several types of cancers treatable by cryotherapy.

Retinoblastoma

what types of cryotherapy for cancer exists retinoblastoma

Retinoblastoma is a kind of childhood cancer that affects the eye retina. Research has found that cryosurgery is the most effective only when the tumor is in its early stages. The results will be effective only when it has affected a small part of the retina. If it has progressed to the entire retina, it is wiser to look for other cancer treatment recommendations.

Breast Cancer

breast cancer

Cryotherapy for breast cancer is still in its trial stages. Researchers are still reviewing whether cryosurgery can be a better alternative for breast cancer. It is still not so clear whether cryotherapy can work effectively on different types of breast cancer.

The National Cancer Institute is searching for people who would like to be part of the clinical trials to find full information on the effectiveness of cryotherapy for breast cancer.

Cryotherapy For Cancer – Skin

cryotherapy for cancer - skin

When you are looking to treat skin cancer, your doctor will spray liquid nitrogen directly to the affected tissue. In the process, they will avoid more contact with any healthy tissue. Alternatively, the doctor can use a cotton swab and apply the liquid nitrogen to the affected areas.

The liquid nitrogen will freeze the area. Afterward, the liquid nitrogen will dissolve while the area thaws.

A scab will fall off from the treated area as the healing process continues.

Cryotherapy for Cancer – Prostate

cryotherapy for cancer - prostate

Cryotherapy is one of the treatment options for men with early stages prostate cancer if it’s still just in the prostate glands.

Cryotherapy prostate cancer is considered more effective than standard prostatectomy and other forms of ration therapy.

The long-term effects of cryosurgery on prostate cancer are not well established. This is why it is recommended to treat cancer that is still confined in the prostate glands.

This is also the best option for men who cannot go for surgery to treat prostate cancer. Some of the conditions that can prevent you from going for radiation therapy or surgery include:

  • Age
  • Underlying health conditions
  • Had many radiations in the past

Cryotherapy for Cancer – Liver

cryotherapy for cancer - liver

Just for prostate cancer, cryotherapy is used to treat the liver is administered under the following conditions:

  • Cancer that has not spread so much
  • When its unsafe to use other cancer treatment options such as radiation therapy
  • When cancerous cells have spread to the liver from other body parts such as the colon or rectum

Liver cryosurgery may destroy significant blood vessels and bile ducts, leading to heavy bleeding or infections.

How Do I Prepare For Cryotherapy for Cancer Treatment?

how do i prepare for cryotherapy for cancer treatment

Some physicians will give their patients 400mg ibuprofen 30 minutes before having skin treatment. Ibuprofen helps ease minor discomfort during and after the procedure. Some physicians give antibiotics. The antibiotics will protect you from possible infections.

For treatments involving tumor freezing, patients should:

  • Keep of blood-thinning medications as recommended by the doctor.
  • Inform the doctor of all medications they are on, including herbal supplements
  • Let your doctor know about any types of allergies you may have

Your doctor may discourage you from taking aspirin and non-inflammatory drugs a few hours before the procedure.

Women should always inform their physicians of the possibilities of pregnancy. During cryotherapy, a lot of imaging is performed, and exposing the fetus to radiation waves is dangerous.

Outpatient or Inpatient Services

outpatient or inpatient services

In most cases, Cryotherapy Los Angeles is usually outpatient basis. However, if it’s a treatment for deep tumors, you may have to stay for a night. If the therapy is performed using a large surgical incision, you need to prepare for a short hospitalization.

So, always discuss with your doctor the possibility of hospitalization after the procedure. If you are not sleeping in the hospital, plan for someone to drive you home after the procedure.

What is the Experience Like During and After the Procedure?

what is the experience like during and after the procedure

During procedure (2), you will be attached to devices that monitor your blood pressure and heart rate. You may have a mild sting when the needle is inserted into your vein. The pinch will be felt just at the incision area. Usually, this is numbed by the insertion of a catheter into the artery or the vein. This will save you from any severe discomfort.

If you go with a general anesthetic, you will be unconscious throughout the procedure. An anesthesiologist will monitor you through the process.

However, if the procedure is done through sedation, the sedative will make you relaxed, comfortable. You may fall asleep or remain awake, depending on the intensity of the sedation.

Usually, you can resume your routine in 2 or 3 days. However, for open cryosurgery, you can resume your routine in 7 or 10 sides.

Consult your physician on when you can get back to your regular duties.

The Benefits VS Risks of Cryotherapy for Cancer

the benefits vs risks of cryotherapy for cancer

Like any other medical procedure, cryotherapy for cancer has two sides, the benefits and the risks. We review the benefits and the risks of the procedure below.

Benefits of Cryotherapy for Cancer

The main cancer cryotherapy benefit is how less invasive it is. The procedure is gentle on any healthy tissue it comes across. Many cancer patients are now considering this cold treatment, especially those with early-stage cancer. If you analyze different treatment options, this will win your heart if you want something practical and friendly.

Possible Side Effects of Cryotherapy for Cancer

does cryotherapy kill cancer cells

Side effects from cryotherapy tend to be more complicated on men who have already had radiation therapy for prostate cancer. If radiation therapy was the first treatment, the chances are high that you will have blood in your urine. Blood spots will appear for a few days after the procedure.

Here are other cryotherapy risks:

  • Swelling of scrotum or penis after cryotherapy for prostate cancer
  • Burning sensations or pain resulting from freezing close to the bladder
  • Possible damage of nerves near the frozen tissues
  • Erectile dysfunction is more prevalent after cryotherapy for prostate cancer than after radiation therapy
  • A small percentage of people develop fistula

Also, cryotherapy is a localized treatment. It just kills cancer cells in the targeted area only. It won’t be as effective if the cancer cells have spread to the other parts of the body.

FAQ

What is The Success Rate of Cryotherapy?

what is the success rate of cryotherapy

The success rates of cryotherapy often depend on the patient’s stage. If they are at high risk, the success rate will be lower. But the success rate of cancer cryotherapy is usually over 50%.

Does Cryotherapy Kill Cancer cells?

Yes, the extreme cold temperatures of cryosurgery freeze cancer cells. The frozen cells will be absorbed by the body and later eliminated through waste.

Final Thoughts

Cryotherapy for cancer is now gaining traction as one of the strongest treatments, thanks to its gentleness and other noticeable benefits. It is not that the other forms of cancer treatments are lacking, but cryotherapy for cancer is undoubtedly a game-changer. Often used as an alternative, but it’s slowly but surely taking up space.

Equipped with the information above, talk to your doctor about the treatment and care. If you get the go-ahead, this could be the treatment you will respond best to.

1 https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/types/surgery/cryosurgery-fact-sheet

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