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cryosurgery of the cervix

Alternative Names
cervical freezing treatment, freezing of the cervix, cryotherapy of the cervix

Cryosurgery of the cervix is the freezing of a section of the cervix, usually to remove precancerous cells. The cervix is the lower portion of the uterus that attaches to the vagina.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?
Cryosurgery may be used to treat a woman who has:
  • certain types of precancerous changes in the cervix. These changes are usually first detected from a Pap smear.
  • an inflamed cervix, called cervicitis.
  • some forms of cervical ectropion, which may cause a chronic or long-standing whitish or yellowish discharge.
How is the procedure performed?
This procedure can often be done in the doctor's office. First, a tool called a speculum is used to hold the vaginal walls apart so that the cervix can be seen well. This tool is also used during a regular Pap smear. A bit of gel is then put on the cervix. This helps create a good seal for a tool called a cryoprobe. The cryoprobe delivers liquid nitrogen to the right spot on the cervix. A flow of liquid nitrogen, which is extremely cold, freezes the cervix cells for about 3 to 5 minutes. After a wait of 2 to 3 minutes to let the cells warm up, they are frozen again for 3 to 5 minutes. This freezing destroys the cells.

What happens right after the procedure?
When cryosurgery is used to treat precancerous cells in the cervix, a Pap smear should be done every 3 to 4 months for one year. During the second year, Pap smears should be done every 6 months. A Pap smear is done to test for cancer of the cervix. If a Pap smear is abnormal, a biopsy of the cervix may be needed to check cervical cells more closely. A biopsy involves taking a small piece of tissue from the cervix with a special needle. The tissue can then be sent to the laboratory for analysis.

What happens later at home?
A woman may go back to her normal activities after the procedure. Mild cramping may be treated with over-the-counter medication, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or paracetamol.

During the next month, the cells that were frozen will be sloughed off in the form of a clear discharge from the vagina. A woman should not put anything in the vagina for 4 to 6 weeks after the procedure. For example, douches, tampons, and sexual intercourse should be avoided.

What are the potential complications after the procedure?
Rarely, complications can occur, such as:
  • infection of the cervix
  • bleeding from the cervix
  • narrowing of the cervix, which may cause more cramping than normal if it blocks menstrual flow
Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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