What is cryotherapy for prostate cancer?
The prostate gland is found only in males. It sits below the bladder and wraps around the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body. The prostate helps make semen.
Cryotherapy involves freezing the cancer cells and cutting off their blood supply. Tiny needles are placed right into the tumor. Argon gases are passed through the needles and exchanged with helium gases. This causes a freezing and warming cycle. The frozen, dead tissue then thaws and is naturally absorbed by the body.
Cryotherapy can be used to treat a variety of problems. When used to treat prostate cancer, a warming catheter is put into the urethra to keep it from freezing. The needles are guided into the prostate tumors using ultrasound to guide them.
Why might I need cryotherapy for prostate cancer?
Cryotherapy may be a good treatment option for prostate cancer treatment, including:
- Prostate cancer that is found in the prostate gland and hasn’t spread to other parts of the body
- If you aren’t well enough to get radiation or surgery
- If your cancer has spread beyond the prostate gland and the goal is not a cure
- If radiation therapy has not worked for you. Some experts believe cryotherapy can be helpful when the prostate cancer cells aren't as sensitive to radiation.
Cryotherapy may not be recommended if you have a very large prostate gland.
Cryotherapy is less invasive than standard surgery. It involves needles that are put in through the skin. There is less blood loss, a shorter hospital stay, faster recovery, and less pain. It can be repeated, if needed.
There may be other reasons for your healthcare provider to recommend cryotherapy.
What are the risks of cryotherapy for prostate cancer?
As with any procedure, complications can occur. The risk of permanent erectile function (ED or impotence) is very high with cryotherapy, so it’s a better choice for men who aren't as concerned about ED after treatment. Some other possible complications may include:
- Bleeding or blood in the urine
- Soreness or swelling in the region where the needles are put into the body (between the scrotum and the anus)
- Swelling around the penis or scrotum
- Freezing may affect the bladder and intestines, which can lead to pain and burning sensations
- Urge to empty the bladder and bowels more often (usually goes away in several weeks)
- Urinary incontinence is rare, but this may be more common if you have had radiation therapy in the past
- Fistula (an abnormal connection) between the rectum and bladder or urethra is a rare complication
There may be other risks depending on your condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure.
What happens after cryotherapy for prostate cancer?
At the hospital
After the procedure, you may be taken to a recovery room before being taken to a hospital room. You will be connected to monitors that will display your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and your oxygen level.
Once you are stable and awake will be taken to your hospital room. You may also start to drink liquids.
You may get pain medication as needed, either by a nurse, or by giving it yourself through a device connected to your IV line.
You can gradually return to solid foods as you are able to handle them.
You may start to take antibiotics after the cryosurgery is done and continue them for a few days after it. This is to help prevent infection.
Your recovery will continue to progress. You will probably have some bruising and swelling in the area where the probes were inserted. You will be encouraged to get out of bed and walk the same day and you may be able to go home the same or the next day.
You may notice some blood in your urine for a day or two after the surgery. Swelling in the penis or scrotum is common. You may also have pain in your abdomen (belly) and burning sensations, which may make you feel the urge to go to the bathroom more often.
The catheter will stay in for a couple of weeks to help urine drain while your prostate gland heals. You'll be given instructions on how to care for the catheter at home.
Arrangements will be made for a follow-up visit with your healthcare provider.
Your healthcare provider may give you other instructions after the procedure, depending on your case.
Once you are home, you should keep the surgical area clean and dry. Your healthcare provider will give you specific bathing instructions.
The needle insertion sites may be tender or sore for several days after cryotherapy. Take a pain reliever for soreness as recommended by your health care provider.
You shouldn't drive until your healthcare provider tells you to. You may have other limits on activity.
Be sure to keep any follow-up appointments so your healthcare provider can make sure you're recovering well. The catheter will be taken out at one of these follow-up appointments.
Tell your healthcare provider about any of the following:
- Fever, chills, or both
- Redness, swelling, bleeding, or other drainage from the needle insertion sites
- Increase in pain around the needle insertion sites
- Inability to urinate once catheter is removed
- Changes in your urine output, color, or odor
Your healthcare provider may give you other instructions after the procedure.