Cervical cryosurgery or cryotherapy is a gynecological treatment that freezes a section of the cervix. Cryosurgery of the cervix is most often done to destroy abnormal cervical cells that show changes that may lead to cancer. These changes are called precancerous cells. Your gynecologist will probably use the term cervical dysplasia.
Cryosurgery is done only after a colposcopy confirms the presence of abnormal cervical cells. Cyrotherapy is also used for the treatment of cervicitis or inflammation of the cervix. Cryosurgery is not a treatment for cervical cancer.
What happens during cryosurgery?
Cryosurgery is performed in your doctor's office while you are awake. It is similar to a pelvic exam:
- you will be asked to undress from the waist down,
- lie on an exam table with your feet in stirrups,
- a speculum is inserted into your vagina to hold the vaginal canal open so that your cervix can be seen.
However, that's where the similarity ends.
- Cryotherapy uses special instruments called cryo probes.
- During cryosurgery the cyro probes are inserted into your vagina until they firmly cover the abnormal areas of cervical tissue.
- Next, liquid nitrogen begins to flow through the cryo probes at a temperature of approximately -50 degrees Celsius.
- This causes the metal cryo probes to freeze and destroy superficial abnormal cervical tissue.
- The most effective treatment result is obtained by freezing for three minutes, letting the cervix thaw, and repeating the treatment for three more minutes.
How will I feel during cryosurgery?
- You may feel some slight cramping.
- You may experience either a sensation of cold or of heat.
How effective is cryosurgery for cervical dysplasia?
Cryosurgery is an adequate treatment for most cases of cervical dysplasia destroying all of the abnormal cervical tissue in over 85 percent of cases. However, when the cervical changes are located in the upper section of the cervix a cone biopsy, rather than cryotherapy, is recommended.
What happens after cryosurgery?
First two to three weeks following treatment:
You can return to most normal activities the day after cryosurgery; however, there are a few things you should take note of for the first two to three weeks following treatment:
- It is normal to experience a watery discharge for the first few weeks. This is caused by the sloughing of dead cervical tissue.
- Do not insert anything into the vagina for at least two to three weeks. This means no tampons, no douches, and no sexual intercourse.
You should call your health care provider if any of the following occur:
- Fever. Your doctor should inform you before you leave the office what amount of fever is cause for alarm following cryosurgery.
- Vaginal bleeding that is heavier than you normally experience during your menstrual cycle.
- Pain. Some slight cramping is normal, however, any severe or increasing pelvic pain should be reported to your doctor immediately.
- Foul smell or yellowish vaginal discharge. These can indicate an infection which may need immediate treatment.
Cryosurgery is relatively risk-free, producing fewer complications than any other gynecological procedure. After cryosurgery you will need Pap tests every three to six months for a period of time. Once you have had several normal Pap smears in a row, your doctor will discuss with you how often you need future screening for cervical cancer.
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