Cryotherapy was once a popular method of treating prostate cancer patients in the seventies and eighties. Though it seemed to be an effective way to treat the cancer, the instruments and technology available at the time led to some negative side effects, and in turn some negative publicity which put this treatment on the proverbial back burner for over a decade.
Now with several advancements having been made in medical science and technology cryotherapy is once again surfacing as a potential in the minds of many doctors and prostate cancer sufferers alike.
So what is cryotherapy exactly: it’s a procedure that destroys targeted tissue through freezing. It’s used to freeze the tissue of the prostate gland in order to stop the cancer. Cryotherapy is kind of a middle of the road treatment, it’s a good option for patients who don’t want to go through the surgical procedure of having a prostatectomy, where the entire prostate gland and the tissue around it are removed, but don’t want to risk the cancer spreading during watchful waiting, or a period of observation.
Cryotherapy is minimally invasive, during the procedure several small needles are inserted into the prostate through the tissue between the scrotum and the anus while the patient is under a local anesthesia. A foley catheter gets inserted into the bladder, dispensing a saline solution to keep the bladder at the proper temperature.
Once the physician determines that everything is in its proper place argon is pushed through the tiny needles causing the temperature to rapidly plummet and making the tissue at the tips of the needles freeze immediately. Once the tissue has been sufficiently frozen a gas gets pushed through the needles causing the tissue to immediately warm back to normal temperature.
This whole procedure takes a few hours, and the patient will be required to stay in the hospital or treatment center for a period of a day or two. Most men can resume their normal activities in less than two weeks.
Thus far the new and improved methods of cryotherapy seem very effective, studies show nearly ninety-eight percent of patients treat by this method remain cancer free after a period of one year, and there is over a ninety-five percent survival rate after five years. Due to the fact that this particular style of cryotherapy is still relatively new, the success rates for patients beyond five years is still being determined.
The main concern among men considering cryotherapy is potential impotence. To effectively treat the cancer and destroy all cancerous cells some of the tissue outside of the prostate may need to be frozen as well. Sometimes during the procedure the nerve bundles which are responsible for achieving erection become damaged, which can result in either impotence or erectile dysfunction.
Some less critical temporary side effects of cryotherapy can include: urinary incontinence, some blood in the urine, the urgency to urinate and pain in the lower abdomen, but all of these side effects are said to pass relatively quickly.
With such a high success rate and a one time treatment with quick recovery, cryotherapy gives men another good option to consider when seeking treatment for prostate cancer.