Urology Center of Englewood


Cryotherapy is the use of extreme cold to destroy abnormal cells. It may be used to treat certain types of cancer, particularly when the cancer is small and contained. Urologic cancers that may be treated with cryotherapy include kidney cancer and prostate cancer.

Cryotherapy for Kidney Cancer 

Treatment of early-stage kidney cancer often involves surgery to remove part or all of the kidney. For selected patients, cryotherapy offers an alternative approach that destroys the kidney tumor without removing any of the kidney. The treatment is delivered using one or more needles that are inserted into the tumor. Once inserted, the end of each needle is cooled to an extremely low temperature; this freezes and destroys surrounding cells. The insertion of the needles may be done laparoscopically (using several small incisions and a camera to see inside the body), percutaneously (through the skin, with guidance provided by imaging), or through traditional open surgery (using a single, long incision).

Cryotherapy has shown promising efficacy for the treatment of small kidney cancers, but may not be as effective as surgery to remove the tumor. For this reason, it may be most appropriate for people who are not good candidates for major surgery as a result of other health problems.[1] Cryotherapy tends to have fewer side effects and faster recovery times than standard kidney cancer surgery.

Potential complications of cryotherapy include bleeding. If the initial treatment does not completely destroy the cancer, it may be necessary to repeat treatment.

Cryotherapy for Prostate Cancer

The management of early-stage prostate cancer often involves radical prostatectomy (surgical removal of the prostate), radiation therapy, or “watchful waiting” (regular monitoring but no treatment unless the cancer shows signs of worsening).

The role of cryotherapy in the initial treatment of localized prostate cancer remains uncertain; long-term data on effectiveness are not available, so it’s still unclear how the procedure compares with other, more-established approaches to treatment. Cryotherapy may be an option for some men, however, and can also play a role in the treatment of prostate cancer that has recurred after radiation therapy.[2]

Cryotherapy for prostate cancer is done on an outpatient basis or with only a short hospital stay. Cryotherapy needles are inserted into the prostate through the perineum (the area between the scrotum and anus) with the guidance of transrectal ultrasound (ultrasound imaging using a wand placed in the rectum). Once in place, the ends of the needles are cooled to an extremely low temperature; this freezes and destroys surrounding cells. To help preserve urinary function, a special warming catheter is put into the urethra during the procedure.

As with other types of prostate cancer treatment, one of the potential side effects of cryotherapy is erectile dysfunction. This can occur when tissues near the prostate are affected by the freezing process.


[1] American Urological Association Education and Research Inc. Guideline for Management of the Clinical Stage I RenalMass. 2009.

[2] American Urological Association Education and Research Inc. Best Practice Policy Statement on Cryosurgery for the Treatment of Localized Prostate Cancer. 2008.