The use of Cryotherapy in treating prostate cancer
There are many techniques used to treat prostate cancer, these range from hormonal treatments, prostate brachytherapy, high intensity focused ultrasound, or simple watchful waiting of the condition. In addition to these major methods other procedures are sometimes used. One of these is cryotherapy treatment; in this procedure cancerous tissue is subjected to freezing temperatures by use of argon gas; this results in the death of the cancer cells.
What is involved in cryotherapy treatment?
In prostate cryotherapy probes (called cryoprobes) that contain cooling argon gas and warming helium gas are inserted through the perineum in an operation. Usually about 6 to 8 cryoprobes are inserted into the body and are guided into the correct position by the use of ultrasound.
In addition to the probes thermocouples and a device to warm the urethral are inserted, this enables the temperature of the prostate to be accurately measured, and helps to prevent the urethra from being froze. It is important that the freezing probe is only in contact with tissue that needs to be destroyed; this occurs at a temperature of – 40oC.
As the bladder swells during the cryotherapy procedure it is also necessary for the patient to be given a suprapubic catheter during the operation.
Usually the area to be treated is subjected to two rounds of freezing (with a period of thaw in between). A typical prostate cryotherapy operation takes about two hours and most people leave the hospital on the same day; however it can take around one or two weeks before a patient is able to urinate by himself so a catheter.
Cryotherapy side effects
Some of the temporary side effects that occur as a consequence of the cryotherapy prostate treatment include scrotum swelling, tiredness, urinal discharge, pain when urinating and a decrease in time between urination.
Some of the more severe side effects of cryotherapy include impotence; urinary leakage; prostatic slough ( damage to the urethra due to the freezing procedure); inability to urinate; and urethro-rectal fistula.
Why undergo cryotherapy?
Some of the advantages of cryotherapy are that it is not as invasive as some other techniques (such as radical prostatectomy); healthy prostate tissue is not destroyed; it can be used following other prostate cancer treatments such as brachytherapy and external beam radiation.
Additionally it seems that the use of cryotherapy is very successful in the treatment of cancer. Following the operation around 90% of people treated showed no signs of cancer in biopsies. In people with very aggressive cancers who were treated with the freezing treatment there was no return of the cancer in over 65% of patients after a eight year period. In people who had cryotherapy treatment for less aggressive cancer this figure increased to 92%.
It is hoped that this article has explained some of the mysteries of prostate cryotherapy; don't be shy of asking your doctor for further information on prostate cancer treatment options and to explain anything that you are not sure of.