A selection from:
Mayo Clinic on Prostate Health
Continuing from Chapter 7 (go to previous part)
What Are Your Options?
Freezing cancer cells (cryotherapy)
Another way to kill prostate cancer is to freeze the prostate --
almost like turning it into an iceball. Doctors use a similar approach
to kill warts, dipping a swab into a tank of supercooled liquid
nitrogen, then dabbing the swab onto the wart, which eventually
dies and falls off. Prostate tissue dies in the same way and is
absorbed and then eliminated by your body.
Called cryotherapy, the procedure involves inserting 5 to 7 thin
metal rods, each about 6 inches long, through the perineum and
into the prostate. An ultrasound probe in the rectum helps your
doctor position the rods. Once the rod tips are in place, liquid
nitrogen is released into the rods, where it circulates and plunges
the temperature to about -374 F. As the tissue freezes, the formation
and expansion of ice crystals within the cancerous cells cause them
to rupture and die. To keep the urethra from freezing along with
your prostate, a catheter is placed inside the urethra and filled with
a warming solution.
The entire procedure takes about 2 hours/ with most of the time
used to carefully position the rods and about 30 minutes to freeze
You can expect to stay in the hospital 1 to 2 days. You'll probably
be able to return to your normal activities in a couple of weeks.
However, it will take your body about 9 months to a year to shed
the dead cells. The procedure may have to be repeated.
Are you a candidate for cryotherapy?
Your cancer is confined to the prostate.
You're not healthy enough to withstand surgery or radiation.
You don't want surgery or radiation.
What are the advantages?
Cryotherapy controls cancer confined to the prostate in about
80 percent of men.
The procedure requires only 1 or 2 days in the hospital and
can sometimes be done on an outpatient basis.
There's very little blood loss.
Recovery time is short/ just 1 or 2 weeks.
What are the disadvantages?
The procedure is fairly new and not widely used.
Cryotherapy doesn't always kill all the cancer cells on the first
try. It may have to be repeated.
You have a 90 percent chance of impotence developing. The
nerve bundles that control erections can freeze and die.
You may have trouble urinating for several weeks afterward.
The freezing makes the prostate temporarily swell/ which
squeezes the urethra.
You'll have temporary bruising and soreness where the rods
Though the short-term results look encouraging, long-term
survival rates appear lower than with surgery or radiation.
[The chapter continues with "Answers to your questions"]
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