What to Expect: Cryoablation

Cryoablation, also known as cryosurgery or cryotherapy, is the freezing of tumor cells. The goal is to kill tumor cells by exposing the tumor to extremely cold temperatures. This type of therapy is considered a minimally invasive procedure.

This procedure is most commonly used for the following types of cancers:  

  • Bone 

  • Skin 

  • Cervical 

  • Eye 

  • Kidney 

  • Liver 

  • Lung  

  • Prostate 

What to expect

You may or may not be put under anesthesia for the procedure. The doctor (usually a radiologist) will use a needle-like tool called a cryoprobe. The cryoprobe is inserted into the body and the tumor site with the aid of imaging guidance, usually a CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound. Liquid nitrogen or something called argon gas is injected directly into the targeted tumor, causing the tumor tissue to freeze. This may be done several times over the course of a few minutes or more. Upon thawing, the tissue dies and is reabsorbed by the body. 

Side effects and risks of cryoablation depend on the site of the targeted tumor. There is always a risk of bleeding, infection, or damage to nearby sites.   

Questions to ask Your doctor

  • What side effects can I expect with this treatment? 

  • What will my recovery time be? 

  • Will I need to have a driver to and from the procedure?