Some risks of cryosurgery are blisters and ulcers, skin that turns white where the extreme cold is applied and damage to otherwise healthy tissue, says Healthline. Pain, infection, loss of sensation from damaged nerves and scarring are also risks of cryosurgery.
Despite the risks, medical experts believe they are lower than the risks of surgery or radiation to treat cancers, says Healthline. Doctors mostly use cryosurgery to treat skin cancers, though they can also use it to treat internal organs.
Cryosurgery is the application of liquid nitrogen to a lesion, according to Healthline. Liquid nitrogen can have a temperature of between -346 and -320 degrees Fahrenheit. At those temperatures, it instantly destroys any living cells with which it comes into contact. For skin cancers, doctors treat the lesion with liquid nitrogen placed on a swab or liquid nitrogen that the doctors spray onto the affected areas. This is an outpatient procedure.
Patients who undergo cryosurgery that treats internal organs, such as the liver or the prostate, receive instructions much like those for conventional surgery, such as fasting at least 12 hours before the procedure, says Healthline. Guided by ultrasound, the surgeon uses a scope to apply the liquid nitrogen to the tumor, which kills it. The body then absorbs what's left of the tumor.