Alternative Names cervical freezing treatment, freezing of the cervix, cryotherapy of the cervix
Definition 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
Author: Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia Last Updated: 1/10/2001 Contributors Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request
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