Here’s a less-known, but effective prostate cancer treatment – freeze the cancer cells.
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Cryotherapy for prostate cancer uses cold to freeze prostate tissue and kill the cancer cells.
But it’s not for everyone. It not only works very well for the right cases, but the risk of complications is low.
“It’s minimally invasive and incision-free,” says urologist David Levy, MD,. “In fact, we don’t remove the prostate — it simply turns into scar tissue while preserving normal urinary function.”
Who is a good candidate for prostate cancer cryotherapy?
Men with early-stage prostate cancer can often benefit from cryotherapy. Doctors also recommend it for patients whose radiation treatments were unsuccessful or if the cancer has come back.
Unfortunately, cryotherapy isn’t for everyone. It may not work for men with large prostates. In those cases, hormone therapy could shrink the gland and make these patients eligible candidates. You should discuss this with your doctor.
How does it work?
Cryotherapy is performed under general anesthesia. Dr. Levy walks through the procedure:
- A doctor inserts six to eight tiny needles through the skin between the anus and scrotum into the prostate using ultrasound guidance to ensure correct placement. (Don’t worry – you won’t feel this.)
- Argon gas super cools the needles and freezes the prostate tissue, killing it and the cancer. After surgery, you’ll be sent home with a catheter. Within a day or two, you can do mildly physical tasks, like mowing the lawn.
- Within a week, you’ll come for a follow-up visit and get the catheter removed.
- Five weeks later, your doctor retests your PSA with the target being less than 0.4 ng/ml.
Side effects of prostate cancer cryotherapy
With any prostate cancer treatment, potential side effects can include:
- Urinary incontinence.
- Erectile dysfunction.
- Altered bowel function.
- Symptoms relating to hormone therapy.
The millimeter precision used for cryotherapy helps minimize these side effects.
When compared with radiation therapy, cryotherapy results in lower risks of altered bowel and bladder function. It also has a significantly lower risk of urinary incontinence compared with current surgical approaches for prostate cancer.
Traditionally, the risk of erectile dysfunction has been higher with cryotherapy compared to surgery or radiation, but newer techniques with nerve-sparing cryotherapy are showing improved results. Be sure to talk with your doctor about your worries.
Know your options
“When it comes to prostate cancer, one of my biggest concerns is the overtreatment of those who don’t necessarily need it,” says Dr. Levy.
Often times, men whose radiation didn’t work end up on hormone therapy and 15% experience side effects.
Some of these men could benefit from cryotherapy instead of hormone therapy, says Dr. Levy.
While many men who are diagnosed need surgery, there are options that can provide the same outcome.
“That’s why it’s so important for people to learn as much as they can,” says. Dr. Levy.
He suggests talking to your doctor about all the options and asking questions before pursuing treatment.