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Cryotherapy for prostate cancer

Cryosurgery - prostate cancer; Cryoablation - prostate cancer

Cryotherapy uses very cold temperatures to freeze and kill prostate cancer cells. The goal of cryosurgery is to destroy the entire prostate gland and possibly surrounding tissue.

Cryosurgery is generally not used as a first treatment for prostate cancer.


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What Happens During Cryotherapy

Before the procedure, you will be given medicine so that you do not feel pain. You may receive:

First, you will get a catheter that will stay in place for about 3 weeks after the procedure.

Cryosurgery is most often a 2-hour outpatient procedure. Some people may need to stay in the hospital overnight.

When Cryosurgery is Used to Treat Prostate Cancer

This therapy is not as commonly used and is not as well accepted as other treatments for prostate cancer. Doctors do not know for certain how well cryosurgery works over time. There is not enough data to compare it with standard prostatectomy, radiation treatment, or brachytherapy.

It can only treat prostate cancer that has not spread beyond the prostate. Men who cannot have surgery because of their age or other health problems may have cryosurgery instead. It also may be used if cancer comes back after other treatments.

It is generally not helpful for men with very large prostate glands.

Side Effects

Possible short-term side effects of cryotherapy for prostate cancer include:

Possible long-term problems include:


American Cancer Society website. Cryotherapy for prostate cancer. Updated August 1, 2019. Accessed December 8, 2021.

Chipollini J, Punnen S. Salvage cryoablation of the prostate. In: Mydlo JH, Godec CJ, eds. Prostate Cancer: Science and Clinical Practice. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 58.

National Cancer Institute website. Prostate cancer treatment (PDQ) - health professional version. Updated September 3, 2021. Accessed December 8, 2021.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network website. NCCN clinical practice guidelines in oncology (NCCN guidelines): prostate cancer. Version 2.2022. Updated November 30, 2021. Accessed December 8, 2021.


Review Date: 10/3/2021  

Reviewed By: Kelly L. Stratton, MD, FACS, Associate Professor, Department of Urology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, OK. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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