Frequently Asked Questions from Patients
What is cryoablation?
Cryoablation refers to procedures that use extremely cold temperatures to destroy diseased tissue, including cancer cells. Liquid nitrogen or argon gas is the freezing agent.
Is cryoablation a new technology?
No. Cryoablation has been used in open or laparoscopic surgical procedures for over 50 years. Today, cryoablation is routinely done percutaneously (through the skin) with small incisions and under image-guidance i.e., ultrasound, CT or MRI. Cryoablation causes tissue necrosis by freezing the targeted tissue and damaging the microvasculature structure that feeds the cells.
What types of cancers are being treated by cryoablation?
Cryoablation was initially used to ablate skin lesions, but its applications have expanded to treat cancers of the breast, prostate, liver, lung and kidney, as well as certain cancers that have metastasized. It is also referred to as percutaneous cryoablation or cryotherapy.
Where is the procedure performed?
What happens to the tumor cells after freezing is completed?
Freezing destroys the tumor cells, which are then gradually reabsorbed and expelled by the body over 3-18 months.
Is the treatment painful?
Most women have reported minimal discomfort and a small amount of stinging when the anesthesia is given. The treated area may feel tender to the touch for several days following the procedure. This is similar to the experience of your biopsy.
How long does the procedure take?
The procedure is performed in a doctor’s office and takes under 30 minutes. Most patients report minimal discomfort and are able to resume normal activity right away.
Will I have scarring?
Since no breast tissue is removed, the shape of the breast is maintained and little, if any, visible scarring occurs. Most women report a small mark at the probe entry location that diminishes over time.
Will I need a ride home after the procedure?
Since the procedure only requires local anesthesia, you should not have to arrange for transportation home. If your physician prescribes a sedative for you, then you will be required to have someone drive you home from your appointment. You should discuss this with your physician prior to your procedure.
What kind of follow-up is required after treatment?
You will most likely be asked to return to your physician within one month of the procedure to check the treated area. After that, your physician will decide your follow-up checkpoints and will repeat evaluation until the lesion has resolved.