What is Cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy is a treatment which typically uses liquid nitrogen to remove skin lesions like cancer by freezing them. The dead lump of cells will then eventually detach from the rest of your body, leaving little to no damage to your skin.
Cryotherapy or cryosurgery is commonly used to treat relatively benign and low-grade forms of skin cancer. For example, simple forms of BCC and Bowen’s disease. Cryotherapy can also treat other Skin lesions like actinic keratoses, viral warts, seborrhoeic keratoses, etc.
What happens during cryotherapy treatment?
Usually applied using a spray gun, liquid nitrogen is administered to your lesioned skin, freezing it. After one to two minutes, your affected skin should return from a pale white colour to its normal pigment as it thaws out. Your surgeon may repeat this process if the lesion is large enough.
In the next few days, a scab will form. This scab should take one to two weeks to fall off, leaving the treated area looking relatively normal. A full recovery is common after some time. However, some minor scarring or colour loss can appear. Depending on the nature of the lesion, more than one cryotherapy treatment may be necessary until the surgeon removes all the visible lesions from your skin.
What is the recovery like for cryotherapy?
Your doctor will provide advice on how to care for your wound while it is healing and may suggest using vaseline, patting the wound dry if it becomes wet and advising you to refrain from picking the scab, all to reduce the chances of any scarring.
What are the Benefits of Cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy is an incision-free treatment. Not only does this result in little to no scarring, but many patients are more comfortable with this procedure as it is not invasive and does not require the patient to stay overnight.
What are the limitations of cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy is not adept at treating very active skin cancers as they would typically spread to various locations much deeper into the body. In other words, cold therapy can only treat a localised site of skin lesions.
Cold therapy may also lead to undiagnosed cancers as doctors would not be able to find microscopic cancers using radiologic imaging. Radiologic imaging is a method of diagnosis using radiant energy, commonly paired with cryotherapy.
Despite cold therapy showing promising results in its use for bones, kidneys, liver, and lungs, data on its longer-term outcomes is still limited.