Cryosurgery for Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer
Cryosurgery is the process of destroying a skin cancer (lesion) by freezing it with liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen is applied to the lesion using a cotton applicator stick or an aerosol spray.
The skin may first be numbed with a local anesthetic. The liquid nitrogen is applied or sprayed onto the cancer and the immediate surrounding tissue. The application may be repeated. An antibiotic dressing may be applied to the wound.
Cryosurgery is often used to destroy precancerous skin lesions such as actinic keratoses but is rarely used alone (monotherapy) to treat skin cancer.
What To Expect After Surgery
An area where skin tissue has been destroyed by freezing with liquid nitrogen usually heals in 3 to 6 weeks. After the procedure, keep the wound clean and dry. A scab will form over the area.
Why It Is Done
Cryosurgery is used more often for precancerous growths such as actinic keratoses than for skin cancer.
Cryosurgery is done to destroy skin cancer if:
How Well It Works
If cryosurgery is used to treat skin cancer, there is a small chance that the skin cancer will return after treatment. One review of studies of basal cell skin cancer treated with cryosurgery found a cure rate of over 90 out of 100 people.2
The risks of cryosurgery include:
What To Think About
Cryosurgery is an efficient procedure if there are many skin cancers that need to be destroyed or treated.
Cryosurgery wounds heal slowly and can be painful.
Cryosurgery destroys tissue, so there is no way to obtain a sample (biopsy) for diagnosis.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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