What is salvage prostate cryoablation?

Salvage prostate cryoablation is a procedure recommended for men who have been previously treated for prostate cancer when the cancer returns.

Salvage literally means “save.” The doctor is trying to save the patient from the cancer. The procedure uses cryoablation, or extreme cold, to freeze the prostate, so that the cancer cells within it will freeze and die.

The procedure is typically done on an outpatient basis and is minimally invasive.

What is the purpose of the prostate and where is it found in the man’s body?

The prostate is part of the male reproductive system.

The prostate is a gland about the size of a walnut that is under the bladder and in front of the rectum, or the lower end of the bowel. The urethra, or the thin tube that runs the length of the penis and carries both urine and semen out of the body, goes through the prostate.

Salvage prostate cryoablation is mostly used in men who have already been treated with radiation for early-stage prostate cancer.

Each patient is different, and many factors are considered when looking at different treatment options. Before this procedure is recommended, the doctor will consider:

  • Stage of the cancer, or how much the cancer has grown and spread at the time it is diagnosed
  • Aggressiveness, or how quickly the cancer is spreading
  • Patient’s age and life expectancy
  • Patient’s physical and sexual activity level
  • If any other medical issues are present

What is the difference between salvage prostate cryoablation and other treatment options for prostate cancer?

Salvage prostate cryoablation destroys the entire prostate tissue. Other treatments do the following:

  • Radiation therapy kills the individual cells. The more aggressive the cancer, the harder the cells are to kill with radiation.
  • Radical prostatectomy, or surgery to remove the entire prostate and some of the surrounding tissue, is sometimes done after failed radiation therapy. It has a risk of significant complications, such as incontinence and erectile dysfunction.
  • Hormonal therapy, to reduce the level of male hormones, is another option and may be recommended to reduce tumor size and slow the cancer growth. It will not cure the cancer and has significant side effects.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/31/2017.

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