Cryotherapy ("freezing treatment") is used to destroy abnormal cervical cells and surrounding "at risk" tissue. The goal of this treatment is to remove precancerous cells and prevent progression to cervical cancer. It does not cure the HPV infection that is responsible for most abnormalities; your immune system must do that.
On the day of your cryotherapy, eat normally. One hour before your appointment take 600 mg of ibuprofen (3 tablets of 200 mg over-the-counter strength).
You will be positioned on the exam table just as you are with a pap test, and a speculum is used to visualize the cervix. The tip of the cryotherapy unit, about the size of a quarter, will be applied to your cervix, and will freeze the surface of the cervix. You will feel mild to moderate menstrual cramp-like discomfort during the procedure. The usual protocol involves freezing for 3 minutes, waiting for 5 minutes and then freezing for 3 minutes.
After the procedure, you will have a profuse, watery and sometimes blood-tinged discharge for 2-4 weeks. This is normal. You will need to wear a sanitary pad. Tampon use, intercourse, and swimming should be avoided until the watery discharge stops (usually around 3 weeks).
A new lining will grow over the treated area; the goal is that the cells will be normal. The success rate is about 90%, meaning that about 10% of women will have persistent abnormalities requiring further monitoring or treatment. Exposure to cigarette smoke increases the failure rate.
Complications from cryotherapy are rare. Less than 1% of patients will develop infection--contact your doctor if your discharge becomes foul-smelling, persists beyond 4 weeks or if you develop abdominal pain or fever. Less than 1.5% will develop narrowing of the cervical opening.
A common concern is the effect of this treatment on future fertility. Although any procedure that destroys cervical tissue could theoretically impair fertility by resulting in decreased cervical mucous, reduced cervical strength, cervical canal narrowing, or infection, an extensive review of the literature on this issue provides reassurance that these events are unlikely with a single cryotherapy treatment.
Your doctor will discuss pap follow-up at the time of the procedure. More frequent pap tests or a test for high risk HPV will be advised to determine whether the abnormality persists.
If you have questions, call 812-855-7558.