Cancer Research UK on Google+ Cancer Research UK on Facebook Cancer Research UK on Twitter

Cryotherapy for kidney cancer

This page tells you about cryotherapy treatment for kidney cancer. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Cryotherapy for kidney cancer

Cryotherapy (also called cryosurgery or cryoablation) is a way of killing cancer cells by freezing them. For kidney cancer a surgeon puts a cryotherapy probe into the area of cancer in the kidney. They can do this through keyhole surgery through the skin or by making a larger cut (incision in the skin). You have this treatment under local anaesthetic or general anaesthetic

Cryotherapy may offer the chance of curing the cancer without the risks of having to remove a kidney. This treatment is best for people who have a small, early stage kidney cancer. Doctors are most likely to use it in people who are not fit enough for surgery. You may need to have the treatment again if the cancer comes back or if any tumour is left behind.

Having cryotherapy

The doctor uses X-ray or ultrasound guidance to find the tumour. They may take a small sample of tissue from the cancer first. They then put one or more cryotherapy needles through the skin into the kidney and move it into position. The needles contain liquid nitrogen, which freezes and destroys the cancer cells when the needle touches the cancer tissue.

Possible side effects

Cryotherapy does not usually cause many side effects. You may have some pain after the local anaesthetic wears off. You will probably need to take painkillers for a few days after your treatment. Problems that may occur in some patients include

  • Bleeding around the kidney and the need for a blood transfusion
  • Leakage of urine
  • Temporary weakness caused by a nerve being damaged
  • Injury to the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder (the ureter)

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the treating kidney cancer section.

 

 

What cryotherapy is

Cryotherapy (also called cryosurgery or cryoablation) is a way of killing cancer cells by freezing them. The medical name for this procedure is percutaneous cryotherapy for renal cancer. Percutaneous means that the freezing probe is put in through the skin. Doctors can use cryotherapy as a treatment for people with small, early stage kidney cancers, less than 4cm across.

Doctors are most likely to use it for people who are not fit enough for surgery. For some people cryotherapy offers the chance of curing the cancer without the risks of having to remove a kidney. You may need to have the treatment again if the cancer comes back or if any tumour is left behind.

Patients need to be assessed for this treatment by a specialist urological cancer multidisciplinary team. It is mainly available in specialist hospitals. Your doctor will explain all the possible risks and benefits to you beforehand.

 

Having cryotherapy treatment for kidney cancer

You can have this treatment under local anaesthetic or with a general anaesthetic. The doctor uses X-ray or ultrasound guidance to find the tumour. They then make a cut (incision) in the skin over the kidney or use keyhole surgery. Keyhole surgery is done through smaller cuts and the surgeon uses a camera (laparoscope) to see inside the body to remove the cancer. Although the keyhole operation takes longer than open surgery, people don’t spend as long recovering and there are fewer side effects.

The surgeon may take a small sample of tissue from the cancer first. They then put one or more cryotherapy needles through the skin into the kidney close to the cancer. They move the needle into position. The needles contain liquid nitrogen, which freezes and destroys the cancer cells when the needle touches the cancer tissue.

 

Side effects of cryotherapy for kidney cancer

The treatment area can be painful after the local anaesthetic wears off. You will probably need to take painkillers for a few days after your treatment.

Problems that can occur related to cryotherapy of kidney tumours in some patients include

  • Bleeding around the kidney and the need for a blood transfusion
  • Leakage of urine
  • Temporary weakness caused by a nerve being damaged
  • Injury to the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder (the ureter)

In studies there have been no major complications in patients treated with cryotherapy through an incision. Complications in people who had cryotherapy through keyhole surgery are very rare, but have included bowel injury, breathing difficulties and an abnormal heart rate.

 

Getting more information

We have detailed information about cryotherapy treatment. You can ask your doctor or specialist nurse for written information.

You could also contact our cancer information nurses or call them freephone from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm on 0808 800 4040. They would be happy to help.

If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use Cancer Chat – our online forum. 

Our kidney cancer organisations page has details of organisations that can put you in touch with a cancer support group. Our kidney cancer reading list has information about books and leaflets about kidney cancer treatments.

Rate this page:
Submit rating

 

Rated 4 out of 5 based on 10 votes
Rate this page
Rate this page for no comments box
Please enter feedback to continue submitting
Send feedback
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team

No Error

Updated: 15 January 2014