Cryosurgery is a term given to a procedure that involves the application of a very cold substance in order to destroy tissue. To achieve tumour killing, a tissue temperature of -50C is required. In dermatology, the most frequently used cryosurgical substance is liquid nitrogen (-196C), which is applied using a pressurised canister. No anaesthesia is necessary for small tumours and the application of the freezing spray is felt as a burning sensation. With larger tumours, anaesthetics may be used, as may temperature measuring devices in order to monitor the extent of freezing within the cancer.
Cryosurgery, like Electrodessication and Curettage, is quick, efficient and cost effective. However, this method should be avoided when treating lesions in high recurrence areas.
The post-operative cosmetic result, follow up care, and healing time is very similar to Electrodessication and Curettage. One study has shown that surgical excision gives better cosmetic results than cryosurgery on BBCs on the head and neck.
The overall chance of a cure with this procedure is 92 – 93% (as with Electrodessication and Curettage, this figure would be lower in high recurrence areas and with the treatment of larger and more aggressive tumours).
Cryosurgery, in a few cases, has lead to nerve damage and numbness, but in general has no side effects, except for scarring.
Ref: Telfer NR, Colver GB and Morton CA. Guidelines for the management of basal cell carcinoma. Br Journal of Dermatology 2008. 159: 35-48
Review date – January 2016