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What can I Expect During Cervical Cryotherapy?

A. Pasbjerg
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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When abnormal, possibly pre-cancerous, cells are found on a woman's cervix, her doctor may recommend she have cervical cryotherapy. This procedure, also known as cryosurgery, involves using an instrument to apply extreme cold to the abnormal cells to freeze them; this kills the cells, and the body then expels them. The entire process is fairly simple and is typically done on an outpatient basis. Pain is usually minimal, though there may be some discomfort from the cold and from cramping. The doctor will then typically provide instructions for aftercare in the weeks following the procedure.

Cervical cryotherapy is performed by opening the vagina so a probe can be inserted and used to freeze the abnormal cells on the cervix. Typically, a speculum will be inserted first to hold the vagina open. The probe is then placed so it covers the cells that need to be destroyed. Liquid nitrogen then runs through the probe, making the metal in the probe extremely cold so it freezes the cells it is touching. Generally, the process is done twice, once for three minutes, then again for another three minutes once the cells have been allowed to thaw out.

A doctor will normally perform cervical cryotherapy right in his or her office; no hospital stay is usually necessary. The patient will typically be asked to lie on the examination table with her feet in the stirrups as she would during a routine pelvic exam. No anesthesia is usually necessary, and the patient will remain awake throughout the procedure.

Most women find cervical cryotherapy to be only mildly painful at most. There can be some cramping, which can cause discomfort; this normally only lasts the length of the procedure though. Some patients may experience the sensation of cold as well.

Once the cervical cryotherapy is complete, the doctor will usually provide instructions to the patient for the weeks afterward. As the body flushes out the dead cells, most patients will notice a watery discharge; since nothing should be inserted in the vagina for around three weeks, sanitary pads should be used as opposed to tampons. Patients should also avoid sexual intercourse, swimming, or douching. Normal activity can generally be resumed within a day or two after the procedure, though excessive activity or exercise may be discouraged for a time. Patients should be aware of signs of complications or infection such as excessive pain and bleeding, fever, or bad smelling discharge.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
A. Pasbjerg
By A. Pasbjerg
Andrea Pasbjerg, a The Health Board contributor, holds an MBA from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Her business background helps her to create content that is both informative and practical, providing readers with valuable insights and strategies for success in the business world.
Discussion Comments
By serenesurface — On Aug 10, 2013

@simrin-- If the tissue is not properly frozen, the procedure can be ineffective. This is rare though. I've also heard that cryotherapy for the cervix can cause scar tissue and possibly issues with fertility.

By ZipLine — On Aug 09, 2013

@simrin-- Don't worry, you will be fine.

I didn't experience much discomfort during the procedure, it was very quick and I could only feel the cold, there was no pain. I did have some pain and cramping for a day or two afterward, but it was not a big deal.

The only possible complication with cervical cryotherapy is that the dysplasia might return. This is why you have to get a cervical pap smear every three months for nine months after the procedure. This is to make sure that the dysplasia has not returned.

I had cervical cryotherapy six years ago and my pap smears have been coming back normal ever since.

By SteamLouis — On Aug 09, 2013

I will be getting cervical cryotherapy for cervical dysplasia next week. I'm not worried about the procedure because everyone I've spoken to at the hospital told me that it's pain-free and very easy.

I'm a little worried about possible side effects though. Has anyone had any problems after a cervical cryotherapy? Or has anyone had complications during the procedure?

A. Pasbjerg
A. Pasbjerg
Andrea Pasbjerg, a The Health Board contributor, holds an MBA from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Her business background helps her to create content that is both informative and practical, providing readers with valuable insights and strategies for success in the business world.
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