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In cryosurgery, liquid nitrogen is used to freeze and therefore eliminate early basal and squamous cell carcinomas.
Why choose cryosurgery for skin cancer
Cryosurgery should be considered by patients with medical conditions that complicate the consideration of more invasive surgical methods or for those that have a history of bleeding problems. The procedure is easy to perform, is minimally invasive and has a quick recovery time.
What you should know about cryosurgery for skin cancer
During this in-office procedure, the doctor applies liquid nitrogen using a cotton swab or a spray device. Occasionally, the doctor will insert a needle containing a thermometer into the treatment area to ensure it has been sufficiently cooled to allow tumor eradication. The goal of treatment is to freeze the skin cancer quickly and allow it to slowly thaw to cause maximum destruction to the targeted tumor. In some cases, more than one application of liquid nitrogen may be necessary.
As with any treatment, there are risks associated with cryosurgery, though they are minimized in the hands of an ASDS dermatologist. Risks include:
- Temporary numbness
- Loss of pigmentation and/or hair in the treatment area
- Bleeding and blisters
- Healing difficulties
- Cancer recurrence
- The need for additional tumor treatments
The average cost for cryosurgery for skin cancer ranges from $100 to several hundred dollars per session, though costs can vary widely depending on the exact procedure. Since skin cancer treatment is considered to be a medically necessary procedure, it typically is covered by most insurance carriers.
How to prepare for the procedure
Before the procedure, an ASDS dermatologist will review the patient’s medical history and conduct a physical exam. This also is the time for the doctor and patient to discuss expectations, potential risks/benefits and outcomes of the procedure.
What to expect after the procedure
Redness, swelling and the formation of a blister can be expected at the treatment site. An over-the-counter pain reliever can often be used to control minor pain. The site should be cleansed three or four times daily while fluid continues to ooze from the wound, usually for five to 14 days until a dry crust forms. The crust will eventually fall off. Healing time for head and neck procedures is four to six weeks. Longer healing times typically are seen for procedures performed on other parts of the body.
Find a doctor for your cryosurgery treatment
Visit "Find a dermatologic surgeon" and choose “Skin Cancer Treatments & Reconstruction” from the dropdown menu. In 2013, ASDS dermatologists performed nearly 3.04 million skin cancer treatments, up from 2.7 million sin 2012. Because ASDS dermatologists are trained in the best and latest techniques, they are the most qualified to evaluate and select the best treatment choice based on the individual patient’s condition.