What is Cryosurgery?

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what is cryosurgery


This blog taught us about cryosurgery, a medical treatment that uses extreme cold to fix different health problems, like cancer and non-cancer issues. Cryosurgery freezes and destroys abnormal tissues or growths with liquid nitrogen or other very cold substances. It’s a simple procedure that usually needs only a small cut and can be done with just local anesthesia. 

Cryosurgery has benefits like accurate targeting, working well with other treatments, and being useful when surgery isn’t possible. But it can also have mild side effects. Overall, cryosurgery is a helpful option for patients, giving them different choices for treatment with fewer problems.

In this blog, we discuss the following topics:

What is Cryosurgery?

Cryosurgery, also known as cryotherapy or cryoablation, is a medical procedure that uses extremely cold temperatures to destroy abnormal tissues or lesions. It involves the application of liquid nitrogen or other cryogenic substances to freeze and kill targeted cells.

During cryosurgery, a cryoprobe or applicator is inserted into or placed on the tissue to be treated. The cryoprobe is cooled to very low temperatures, typically below -20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit) or even colder. This extreme cold causes ice crystals to form within the cells, leading to cellular damage and destruction.

Cryosurgery is commonly used to treat various conditions, including skin lesions such as warts, skin tags, and certain types of skin cancer. It’s also used in gynecology to treat abnormal cervical cells (cryotherapy for cervical dysplasia) and in other medical specialties for conditions like prostate cancer, liver tumors, and retinal detachment.

One advantage of cryosurgery is its minimally invasive nature, often resulting in less pain, scarring, and recovery time compared to traditional surgical methods. However, like any medical procedure, it carries some risks and may not be suitable for all patients or conditions.

Cryosurgery-Treated cancers

Cryosurgery can help with some cancers and non-cancer problems too:

For Cancer:

  1. Eye cancer called retinoblastoma
  2. Skin cancers like basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas
  3. Skin sores from AIDS-related Kaposi sarcoma
  4. Early prostate cancer
  5. Liver cancer that’s only in the liver
  6. Bone cancer, especially chondrosarcoma
  7. Non-small cell lung cancer

For Non-Cancer Issues:

  1. Skin growths called actinic keratoses, which might turn into cancer
  2. Abnormal cervical cells that can lead to cervical cancer
  3. Benign bone tumors like enchondroma, giant cell tumor, aneurysmal bone cyst, and chondroblastoma.

Advantages Cryosurgery

Cryosurgery offers several advantages:

  • Minimal invasion: Only a small cut or hole is typically required to insert the cryoprobe, leading to reduced pain, bleeding, and surgical complications.
  • Local anesthesia: Often, cryosurgery can be performed using only local anesthesia, eliminating the need for a hospital stay.
  • Precision targeting: Because it’s a localized treatment, doctors can precisely focus on the affected area, minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue.
  • Compatibility with other treatments: Cryosurgery can be combined with other cancer therapies safely.
  • Alternative when surgery isn’t possible: It can be used when tumors can’t be surgically removed or when surgery isn’t feasible due to age or other health issues.
  • Option for resistant cancers: Cryosurgery may be considered when standard treatments fail to control the cancer.

Side Effects of Cryosurgery

Cryosurgery can have side effects, but they’re usually not as bad as those from other treatments like surgery or radiation. The side effects you might get depend on where your body is treated:

  1. If you get cryosurgery for abnormal cervical cells, you might feel cramps, pain, or bleeding.
  1. For skin tumors, it can cause scarring, swelling, and sometimes numbness or changes in skin color or hair in the treated area.
  1. Cryosurgery on bone tumors might damage nearby bone, making it more likely to break later.
  1. If it’s used on liver tumors, it could harm bile ducts and big blood vessels, leading to heavy bleeding or infections.
  1. Cryosurgery for prostate cancer might block urine flow, cause incontinence, impotence, or damage the rectum. If you’ve had radiation therapy before, you’re more likely to have side effects.

Research on Cryosurgery

Researchers are looking into freezing surgery as a possible treatment for:

  • Mouth problems that can turn into cancer.
  • Breast cancer.
  • Colon cancer.
  • Pancreatic cancer.
  • Kidney cancer.

They are also studying if freezing surgery can work well with other cancer treatments, like hormone therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. If you want to find a clinical trial using freezing surgery, you can use a special search or ask NCI’s Cancer Information Service for help.


In conclusion, cryosurgery offers a valuable option for treating various cancers and non-cancerous conditions. Its benefits include minimal invasion, precise targeting, compatibility with other treatments, and suitability for cases where surgery isn’t possible or standard treatments fail. The specific side effects vary depending on the part of the body treated, but they may include pain, bleeding, scarring, nerve damage, and potential complications related to nearby tissues or organs. Despite these risks, cryosurgery remains a valuable tool in the fight against cancer and other medical conditions, offering patients alternative treatment options with fewer complications.


Q1. What is cryosurgery used for?

A1. Cryosurgery uses really cold temperatures made by things like liquid nitrogen or argon gas to kill cancer cells.

Q2. Is cryosurgery painful?

A2. During cryosurgery, you might feel some discomfort or cramping, but you’ll be awake.

Q3. Is cryosurgery considered surgery?

A3. Yes, cryosurgery is a type of surgery where they use extreme cold to destroy abnormal tissues like tumors. They often use liquid 

nitrogen, but sometimes they use carbon dioxide or argon.

Q4. What is the method of cryosurgery?

A4. The most common way is to spray liquid nitrogen onto the problem area. They do it in short bursts to control it better. This works well for things like warts or small bumps.

Q5. Who uses cryosurgery?

A5. Doctors in dermatology departments often use cryosurgery. They use it to treat things like warts, bumps, and certain skin growths.

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