There are many options for treating abnormal cervical cells. One of these treatments is called cryotherapy, and is usually recommended for mild cases. Cryotherapy effectively destroys abnormal cells with a chemical freezing technology.
Cryotherapy is typically performed as an outpatient procedure in your doctor’s office. It is a nonsurgical procedure that is effective at destroying all of the abnormal cells in 77-96% of cases.
How Cryotherapy Works
When you come in for your cryotherapy treatment, your OB-GYN will ask you to undress from the waist down, much like during a routine pelvic exam. Your doctor will then use a speculum – a long, metal instrument with narrow, duckbill-shaped paddles – to better access the cervix.
The procedure is performed using a special hollow probe that flows liquid carbon dioxide, an extremely cold substance. The probe will touch the abnormal area for 2-3 minutes. In some cases, a second round of 2-3 minutes may be needed, or the doctor may freeze the area for a singular period of 5 minutes.
This process may be mildly uncomfortable. The area will feel cold and you may experience mild cramping.
Cryotherapy is considered a very safe procedure. However, there is always a risk of complication with any medical procedure.
If you experience:
- Heavy bleeding (more than your normal menstrual period)
- Pelvic pain that worsens over time
- Fever or chills
- Yellow or bad-smelling discharge
You should call your doctor right away, as these symptoms are signs of an infection.
Another risk of cryotherapy is that it may not destroy all of the abnormal cells, especially if there are abnormal cells deeply embedded into the cervical tissue. Further treatment may be necessary, which is why follow-up pap smears are so important.
Cryotherapy is a minimally-invasive procedure. Most women can return to their day-to-day activities the same day without much interruption.
After cryotherapy, you should expect some watery discharge for about 2-3 weeks. You can manage this with sanitary pads. You will need to avoid putting anything into your vagina for at least 3 weeks, including tampons, douches, and vaginal medications unless otherwise instructed. Abstain from vaginal sexual intercourse during this time.
You will need to schedule follow-up pap smears every 3-6 months, depending on your doctor’s recommendation. After a number of normal consecutive pap smears, you can usually return to your annual pap smear schedule.