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Cryosurgery for Prostate Cancer

Topic Overview

Cryosurgery freezes the prostate gland to kill prostate cancer. It is sometimes a choice for treating early prostate cancer. Cryosurgery may also be used for treating prostate cancer that has come back.

For cryosurgery, a number of probes or needles are stuck through the skin into the prostate gland. Transrectal ultrasound is used to guide the placement of the probes. The probes are filled with very cold gas. The gas freezes the tissue in the prostate. If you have it done in the hospital, you can expect a short stay.

After cryosurgery, your PSA level is tested. For some men, a second cryosurgery is needed before a PSA test shows that cryosurgery has worked.

Possible side effects of cryosurgery include erection problems (impotence), urinary incontinence, bladder problems, and damage to the rectum.

Cryosurgery is as effective as surgery or radiation for low-risk, early-stage prostate cancer. But it causes impotence in most men. Newer technologies have reduced some of the side effects from cryosurgery. A type of cryosurgery called focal cryotherapy targets just the tumor rather than the entire prostate. This has greatly reduced the rate of impotence.

Cryosurgery is an option for men who have prostate cancer but who cannot have surgery or radiation therapy because of other medical problems or their age. Also, cryosurgery:

  • Is less invasive than surgery. It only requires a small incision.
  • Results in less pain and bleeding and fewer possible complications than surgery.
  • Costs less than other treatments.
  • Has a shorter hospital stay and recovery time. Sometimes there is no hospital stay.
  • Does not destroy nearby healthy tissue.
  • Can be repeated or used with other treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy, and hormone therapy.

The main disadvantage of cryosurgery is that it may miss some tiny cancers. Cryosurgery is not the best treatment for large prostate tumors. Cryosurgery may work as well as other treatments for low-risk prostate cancer. But it has not been studied as much as other treatments.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Christopher G. Wood, MD, FACS - Urology, Oncology
Last Revised September 12, 2012

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