Cryoablation: Putting the deep freeze on prostate cancer

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CAMBRIDGE – Arthur Gray, 71, of Salesville, was enjoying a healthy, active retirement when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Arthur chose cryotherapy to treat his cancer – a treatment option that targets only the cancer cells and leads to a quicker recovery and fewer side effects.

During an annual physical, Arthur’s primary care physician began closely monitoring his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels after a blood test confirmed an abnormal level. Higher PSA levels sometimes indicate prostate cancer, making PSA testing an important screening tool. When his levels began to increase steadily, he was referred to Clifford Maximo, MD, urologist with Southeastern Med, for a prostate biopsy. Tissue extracted from the biopsy confirmed it was prostate cancer.

“Dr. Maximo and I discussed the various treatment options,” Arthur said. “My choices were surgery, radiation or cryotherapy. After a lot of consideration, I felt cryotherapy was the right choice for me.”

Instead of using radiation, cryoablation uses freezing temperatures to destroy the cancer cells and leave the prostate gland cancer free. Unlike open surgery where the cancer is cut out and removed, cryoablation therapy targets only the cancerous cells, preserving healthy tissue. It is most often used on men who have early-stage prostate cancer, but it has also proved to be a good choice for those who have had unsuccessful radiation treatments.

“Cryoablation offers patients an alternative to major surgery that is just as effective in treating prostate cancer, but with a quicker recovery, fewer complications and in most cases, the benefit of same day surgery,” Dr. Maximo said.

Cryoablation is performed in the hospital under general anesthesia. During the procedure, six to eight tiny needles are inserted into the prostate using ultrasound guidance to ensure correct placement. Argon gas is then used to cool the needles and freeze nearby tissue. Throughout the procedure, temperature sensors carefully monitor the body and precisely determine when target temperatures have been reached. A warming catheter is used to protect the urethra from cold temperatures, helping to maintain urinary function.

“The procedure was relatively simple,” Arthur said. “I never felt a thing. I am glad I chose cryotherapy because the results have been excellent. Within a few weeks after the procedure, my PSA levels were at zero.”

In many cases, side effects, such as incontinence, are less severe with cryosurgery than other treatment options for prostate cancer, and because the procedure is minimally invasive, complications, such as blood loss and the risk of infection, decrease dramatically. In cases of cancer recurrence, cryoablation can be repeated. In addition, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, an indicator for prostate cancer, often remain therapeutic following the procedure.

“Erectile dysfunction is still a common side effect, as with surgery and radiation therapy,” Dr. Maximo said. “But it can be improved with rehabilitation and medication, such as Viagra.”

Cryoablation also offers a quick recovery time and may be done on an outpatient basis. After the procedure, the patient is usually sent home that day, but some patients may be kept overnight if they have pain and require additional monitoring. Patients typically require the use of a urinary catheter for two weeks. Most patients are able to urinate in about 10 to 15 days but some may require longer recovery periods.

Suitable candidates for this procedure are men who have early-stage prostate cancer and those with recurrent cancer following radiation. It is not suitable for men with advanced prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

“Cryoablation is becoming a preferred method of treatment for prostate cancer among many patients, not only because there are less side effects such as pain, but also because of its relatively small impact on a patient’s lifestyle,” Dr. Maximo said.

Dr. Maximo is the only physician in Southeastern Ohio who offers the procedure. For more information about cryoablation or to schedule an appointment to discuss your prostate cancer treatment options, please call Dr. Maximo’s office at 740-439-8839.

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