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What Are the Pros and Cons of Cryotherapy for Cancer?

By Wanda Marie Thibodeaux
Updated May 17, 2024
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Cryotherapy, which is the freezing of cancer or otherwise abnormal cells with substances like liquid nitrogen, generally involves less recovery time and is easy to perform. The procedure is not suitable for all types of cancer, however. Using cryotherapy for cancer treatment also can result in problematic discharge, and no specimen is recoverable for examination and further testing.

Doctors who use cryotherapy for cancer are able to perform the procedure very quickly. Depending on the location of the cancer and the cancer type, a patient usually has to stay in the hospital only a few hours after the physician performs the procedure. This is a major consideration for those with limited or no insurance who cannot afford lengthy medical stays. Quick treatment also means that physicians are able to treat a larger number of individuals.

The fact that individuals who receive cryotherapy do not require extensive hospital stays means that they can return to regular living soon after the procedure. This may help patients gain a sense of stability and normalcy. These feelings can make a large difference in the outlook of the cancer patient.

Another benefit to using cryotherapy for cancer is that because it is minimally invasive, physicians can repeat the procedure if necessary. Doctors also can choose to use alternative methods in the future. As a result, patients retain the widest range of treatment options available.

Treating cancer with cryotherapy requires direct contact with the abnormal cells. Physicians aren't always able to use cryotherapy for cancer that already has progressed into deeper tissues of the body. It is best for cancers that are flat or superficial, such as skin or cervical cancer.

Cryotherapy destroys the tissue that doctors suspect is precancerous or cancerous. The procedure works because cold constricts blood vessels near the tissue, causing cell death. As the tissue thaws, the contents of the cells leak out. The result is that doctors have no sample available for further testing. In terms of cancer research, this is a major drawback because scientists are unable to study in depth the exact cellular modifications that have arisen.

Using cryotherapy for cancer usually results in some discharge from the treatment site due to the destruction of the cells. Patients have to find a way to deal with this discharge. The issue is not necessarily a reason for medical concern, but patients may find that the discharge is embarrassing or interferes with other activities.

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