Cryotherapy Following Radiation Therapy

Cryotherapy is an option worth exploring, particularly for men who have other health problems that might impair their recovery from a surgical procedure. In the same vein, cryotherapy has been used as a secondary local therapy in men who underwent radiation therapy, and has shown five-year disease-free rates around 40%. However, because the procedure does not completely destroy all remaining prostate cells, the PSA generally does not drop to 0, so it is often difficult to determine complete success. Men with lower pre-cryotherapy PSA levels and lower Gleason scores tend to fare better, while those who received hormone therapy in addition to radiation therapy tend to fare worse.

Side effects of cryotherapy tend to be milder compared with standard salvage prostatectomy, and the same holds true when used after radiation therapy. Nevertheless, rates for erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence following this salvage procedure remain high, as do rates for pelvic or rectal pain. Because the severity of side effects tends to correlate with the amount of tissue that is frozen during therapy, better techniques that are currently being studied might improve outcomes over time.

Terms to know from this article:


Gleason Score (GS) - Gleason Grade: A system of grading prostate cancer cells based on how they look under a microscope. Gleason scores range from 2 to 10 and indicate how likely it is that a tumor will spread. A low Gleason score means the cancer cells are similar to normal prostate cells and are less likely to spread; a high Gleason score means the cancer cells are very different from normal and are more likely to spread.


A chemical made by glands in the body. Hormones circulate in the bloodstream and control the actions of certain cells or organs. Some hormones can also be made in a laboratory.


An operation to remove part or all of the prostate. Radical (or total) prostatectomy is the removal of the entire prostate and some of the tissue around it.


Inability to control the flow of urine from the bladder (urinary incontinence) or the escape of stool from the rectum (fecal incontinence).


prostate-specific antigen (PSA): A substance produced by the prostate that may be found in an increased amount in the blood of men who have prostate cancer, benign prostatic hyperplasia, or infection or inflammation of the prostate.