Cryosurgery, or freezing, is used to treat pre-invasive cervical cancer (stage 0), but not for treating invasive cancer. The procedure is usually performed in an outpatient center or in your gynecologist's office. One session is usually sufficient to destroy the abnormal tissue.
During a cervical cryotherapy, your doctor will freeze an area of abnormal or precancerous tissue on the cervix. Freezing the abnormal cells causes them to gradually disappear.
What to expect
- The procedure will be scheduled when you are not experiencing heavy menstrual flow.
- If there is a possibility you might be pregnant, a pregnancy test will be performed.
- You may be given a pain reliever before the procedure to decrease cramping.
- The doctor will freeze the abnormal tissue using a small probe. The freezing compound is a nontoxic gas and is delivered to the freeze probe via flexible tubing.
- The small freeze-probe (cryoprobe) is placed against the cervix. The probe cools the area to sub-zero temperatures. The destroyed cells are shed afterwards in a watery discharge.
- Cervical cryotherapy, usually lasts about five minutes and you may experience a slight amount of discomfort.
After the procedure
You may experience a watery and often odorous discharge for the first month as the destroyed tissues are flushed from the cervix. If the discharge is heavy, ask your doctor for a special cream. You may also have:
- Slight cramping for two to three days
- Watery discharge requiring several pad changes daily
- Bloody discharge, especially 12–16 days after the procedure
Post procedure precautions you should take are:
- Abstain from sexual intercourse for three weeks
- Do not use tampons for three weeks
- Avoid excessive exercise to lessen the chance of post-therapy bleeding.
- In many cases there is no recurrence of the abnormal cervix cells, but you'll need to have follow-up care to ensure the precancerous cells do not return. The two years following a procedure is when most recurrences take place.
- A Pap smear is done within three to six months.
- If normal, Pap smears are repeated every six months for two years.
- Depending on your individual situation, your doctor may recommend that a colposcopic examination be used in place of the initial and annual Pap smear.