Cryosurgery, also known as cryotherapy, refers to the use of extreme cold produced by liquid nitrogen (or argon gas) to annihilate abnormal tissue.
Cryosurgery is used in the treatment of external tumors, such as those on the skin. To treat external tumors, the doctor will apply liquid nitrogen directly to the cancer cells with a spraying device or a cotton swab.
Additionally, cryosurgery is used to treat tumors within the body (tumors in the bone or internal tumors). The treatment of internal tumors involves circulating liquid nitrogen or argon gas through a hollow instrument (cryoprobe), which is placed in contact with the tumor.
Board certified dermatologist Dr. Jamie McGinness and Jackie McGinness, FNP (Nurse Practitioner) provide advanced skin care procedures to patients in Shiloh, IL; St. Louis, MO, and surrounding communities.
How does Cryotherapy Work?
The doctor makes use of ultrasound or MRI to guide the cryoprobe and view the freezing of the cells. This limits damage to neighboring healthy tissue. Ultrasound causes sound waves to be bounced off organs and other tissues to create a picture known as a sonogram.
A ball of ice crystals develops around the probe which freezes the neighboring cells. At times, more than one probe is used to deliver liquid nitrogen to multiple areas of the tumor. The probes may be put into the tumor through the skin (percutaneously) or during surgery.
Following cryosurgery, the frozen tissue thaws, and it is either naturally absorbed by the body (in the case of internal tumors) or it dissolves and develops a scab (in the case of external tumors).
What forms of cancer can be treated with cryosurgery?
Cryosurgery is used in the treatment of various types of cancerous as well as certain precancerous or noncancerous conditions. Other than liver and prostate tumors, cryosurgery can effectively treat the following conditions:
- Retinoblastoma (which is a childhood cancer that impacts the retina of the eye)
- Doctors report that cryosurgery is most effective when the tumor is tiny and only in specific areas of the retina
- Early stage skin cancers (Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas)
- Precancerous skin growths called actinic keratosis
- Precancerous conditions of the cervix called cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (which is abnormal cell changes in the cervix that may develop into cervical cancer)
Researchers are assessing cryosurgery as a treatment for various skin cancers, including colon, breast, and kidney cancer.
They are also studying the effect of cryotherapy combined with other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy, radiation therapy, or surgery.
Benefits of Cryosurgery
Cryosurgery is advantageous over other types of cancer treatment. It is less invasive in comparison to surgery, involving only a tiny incision or insertion of the cryoprobe through the skin. As a result, bleeding, pain, and other surgical complications are minimized.
Cryosurgery is less expensive in comparison to other treatments and involves shorter recovery time, and a briefer hospital stay or no hospital stay in some cases. At times, cryosurgery can be undertaken using only local anesthesia.
As doctors can focus on cryosurgical treatment in a precise area, they can prevent damage to neighboring healthy tissue. The treatment can be repeated in a safe manner and may be used in combination with standard treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, and hormone therapy.
Cryosurgery may present an option for the treatment of cancers that are thought to be inoperable or those that are unresponsive to standard treatments. On top of this, it can be used for patients who are not suitable candidates for traditional surgery due to their age or health conditions.
Board certified dermatologist Dr. Jamie McGinness and Jackie McGinness, FNP (Nurse Practitioner) receive patients from Shiloh, IL; St. Louis, MO, and nearby areas for safe and proven skin care treatments.
If you would like to learn more about procedures and treatments at Metro East Dermatology & Skin Cancer Center by Board Certified Dermatologist Dr. Jamie L. McGinness please contact us here or call (618) 622-SKIN (7546)
Taking new patients in and around the greater St. Louis, Missouri and Illinois area: East St. Louis Missouri, Shiloh Illinois, Belleville, Millstadt, Saint Clair County, Madison County and more.