Cryotherapy for Prostate Cancer
By Nicholas Muruve, MD / September 1, 2014

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting men in the United States. Each year, more than 200,000 men will be diagnosed with the disease. This translates to about one in six men being diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. There are many new and innovative treatments available to treat the disease, such as cryotherapy. For treatment of certain cancerous and benign lesions, cryotherapy provides hope for patients who have either exhausted other options or would like to avoid surgery.

Cryotherapy has actually been available since the early 1990s. The technique has been modified since then, and significant improvements have been made both in the way it's delivered and in how well it's tolerated by patients. Advances in technology have allowed for a safe and effective technique that can now be performed on an outpatient basis.

Extremely cold temperatures are used in cryotherapy, in order to freeze and destroy cancer tissue. Originally used in treating warts and skin lesions, it has more recently been used in treating various kinds of cancer. With cryotherapy, an ultra-thin metal probe or needle is inserted into the prostate gland. The surgeon uses
visual information produced by ultrasound as a guide during the process. A freezing liquid, such as liquid nitrogen or more commonly, argon gas, is infused through the probe into the prostate gland. The intense cold freezes the prostate and destroys any cancerous tissue it contains. Using the images from the ultrasound to identify the cancer tissue, the surgeon can limit damage to normal prostate tissue. Any living tissue, healthy or unhealthy, cannot withstand the extreme cold.

Though typically not used as a first-line therapy for prostate cancer treatment, cryotherapy is an effective second- or third-line therapy for patients with recurrent prostate cancer, or those who either have not responded to or are not candidates for radiation therapy or surgery. Generally, this includes patients who have had extensive abdominal surgery, as well as patients who have undergone previous radiation therapy.

Cryotherapy offers advantages over other methods of cancer treatment. It is less invasive than surgery, involving only a small incision or insertion of the cryoprobe through the skin. Consequently, pain, bleeding and other complications of surgery are minimized. Cryotherapy allows for a shorter hospital stay and recovery time. For appropriate candidates, cryotherapy offers similar success rates to those of other therapies, including radiofrequency ablation, with a low incidence of side effects. It is generally well-tolerated, and cryotherapy procedures for prostate cancer treatment last only about 30 minutes.
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