Cryotherapy for Prostate Cancer

Cryotherapy, or cryosurgery as it is sometimes called, is a treatment that involves freezing cancer cells and cutting off their blood supply. At UC San Diego Health, the procedure is performed by J. Kellogg Parsons, MD, considered a national leader in the treatment.

During cryosurgery, needles containing liquid nitrogen or argon gas are inserted through the skin under the scrotum into the prostate. Ultrasound or MRI is used to guide the needles directly to the tumor and monitor the freezing of the cancerous cells, thus limiting damage to nearby healthy tissue.

Cryosurgery can be used to treat men who have early-stage prostate cancer that is confined to the prostate gland or men who have previously had radiation to treat prostate cancer. The technique is not as well established as standard prostatectomy and various types of radiation therapy in its effectiveness and long-term outcomes.

Advantages of Cryosurgery for Prostate Cancer

  • It can be repeated
  • It can be used to treat men who cannot have surgery or radiation therapy because of their age or other medical problems
  • It is minimally invasive and offers fewer complications than surgery
  • It can sometimes be performed as an outpatient procedure
  • Treatment can be focused on a limited area, avoiding the destruction of nearby healthy tissue

Risks Associated with Cryotherapy for Prostate Cancer

  • Erectile dysfunction (ED)
  • Temporary bleeding or blood in the urine
  • Temporary soreness or swelling
  • Temporary obstruction of urine flow or incontinence

These side effects may occur more often in men who have had radiation to the prostate.

Read more about cryotherapy for prostate cancer in our Health Library.