How Does Cryotherapy Treat Prostate Cancer?

Cryotherapy is a type of treatment that uses sub-zero temperatures to freeze and eliminate cancerous prostate cells. It is also known as cryoablation and cryosurgery. During the procedure, thin needles put into the prostate and gas is then passed down the to destroy cancerous cells.

Who Can Have Cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy can be a suitable treatment for men who have localised prostate cancer that has low to medium risk of spreading, it can also be used in the salvage situation after a previous treatment has failed. It can sometimes be an option if the cancer has started to break out of the prostate but not if it has spread to other parts of the body (known as advanced prostate cancer).

Types of Cryotherapy

There are 2 different types of cryotherapy for prostate cancer that are available to men. These are focal cryotherapy and whole-gland prostate cryotherapy.

  1. Whole-gland prostate cryotherapy treats the entire prostate, including cancerous cells and healthy cells.
  2. Focal cryotherapy only treats the area of the prostate that is affected by cancer. It uses less needles which means that less healthy tissue is frozen compared to whole-prostate cryotherapy.

Before the Cryotherapy Procedure

Before a patient receives cryotherapy, they will get a letter that will outline specific ways they can prepare beforehand. The procedure is carried out most usually under a general anaesthetic, but occasionally a local anaesthetic may be a better option. If a patient is going to receive cryotherapy under a local anaesthetic, they will normally be given some medication to sedate them prior to the procedure. Those who are about to receive cryotherapy will normally need to stop eating and drinking 4 – 6 hours before the procedure is set to take place.

During the Cryotherapy Procedure 

Patients receive cryotherapy for prostate cancer in hospital. It is either carried out in an operating theatre under general anaesthetic. At the start of the procedure, a surgeon will place a tube called a warming catheter into the urethra (just for clarification, the urethra is what carries urine from the bladder and out of the body). This warming tube protects the urethra from sustaining any damage during the procedure, by circulating a warm fluid. The surgeon will then place the cryotherapy needles though the area of skin between the legs and behind the testicles (known as the perineum). A transrectal ultrasound probe is used to make sure the needles are in the right location. The probe is inserted into the rectum and gives a clear image of the prostate throughout the cryotherapy procedure. A machine (known as a ICEfx system or VisualIce) then sends gas circulating through the needles to freeze and destroy cancerous cells within the prostate. Once the procedure is complete (usually within 1 to 2 hours), the surgeon will remove all the needles and the transrectal probe and place a urethral catheter (usually a Foley catheter). Once the patient is fully awake, nurses will check to see if they are in any pain and provide painkillers if they need them.

Following The Cryotherapy Procedure 

Before a patient can leave the hospital, the catheter will be checked to ensure that urine is draining from the bladder. The surgeon will tell the patient how long they will need the catheter for. A dressing will also be placed on the perineum to keep it clean, and a course of antibiotics will be prescribed to help prevent any infection. If the procedure was carried out with a general anaesthetic, then the patient will not be able to drive home as it takes time to wear off fully. However, you might still be able to go home that day, but in some cases, an overnight stay is required.

What Are The Advantages of Cryotherapy?

If you are thinking about having cryotherapy, then it’s important to speak to your doctor before deciding whether to have it or not. They can help you choose if it’s the right course of treatment for you. Cryotherapy is a relatively new treatment when compared to other conventional procedures, and more research needs to be carried out to determine how effective it is in the long term. But, there are some clear advantages to choosing it as a treatment option.

  • It is less invasive than other treatments.
  • You won’t be in the hospital for very long (a day or overnight)
  • You might be able to have the treatment if your prostate cancer has returned after brachytherapy or radiotherapy (salvage treatment).
  • If your cancer comes back after receiving cryotherapy; you might be able to have it as a treatment option again as long as the cancer hasn’t spread to other parts of the body (advanced prostate cancer).

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

If you think cryotherapy might be a suitable treatment, then it’s important to compile a list of questions for when you go to see your doctor or surgeon. Some of the most commonly asked questions to consider are:

  • Where is cryotherapy available?
  • Are there other prostate cancer treatments available?
  • What are the side effects?
  • My radiation therapy didn’t work, can I have cryotherapy instead?
  • Will I also need hormone therapy?
  • How will we know if the treatment has been effective?
  • Will my PSA level be checked regularly following the treatment?

Centres That Offer Cryotherapy and/or HIFU

Because cryotherapy is a relatively new treatment, it currently isn’t offered in many locations in the UK. However, below are the centres that do offer the treatment.

  • Professor Hashim Ahmed: Imperial College London (And HIFU)
  • Mr Tim Dudderidge: Southampton Hospital (And HIFU)
  • Mr Manit Arya: Imperial College London (And HIFU)
  • Mr Stuart McCracken: Sunderland
  • Mr Iqbal Shergill: Wrexham Maelor (And HIFU)

Cryotherapy and Our Campaigning Efforts

At Prost8 UK, we strongly believe in promoting less invasive prostate cancer treatments, including cryotherapy. We also campaign for earlier awareness of the symptoms through newer, simpler and more accurate prostate cancer screening. If you would like to support our very important cause and help us help all men in the UK, then please visit our donation page today. Alternatively, you could donate to our latest fundraising campaign which will see one of our supporters attempt to climb the Three Peaks in under 24 hours.


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