Cryotherapy, or cryosurgery, is a procedure that uses extreme cold (liquid nitrogen) to remove sunspots, some small basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) in situ (Bowen’s disease).
How it’s done
The GP or dermatologist sprays liquid nitrogen onto the sunspot or skin cancer and a small area of skin around it. You may feel a burning or stinging sensation, which lasts a few minutes. The liquid nitrogen freezes and kills the abnormal skin cells and creates a wound. In some cases, the procedure may need to be repeated.
What to expect after
The treated area will be sore and red. A blister may form within a day. A few days later, a crust will form on the wound. The dead tissue will fall off after 1–6 weeks, depending on the area treated.
New, healthy skin cells will grow and a scar may develop. The healed skin will probably look paler than the surrounding skin.
Learn more about the different types of skin cancer.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
A/Prof Stephen Shumack, Dermatologist, Royal North Shore Hospital and The University of Sydney, NSW; Dr Margaret Chua, Radiation Oncologist, Head of Radiation Oncology, Skin and Melanoma, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; John Clements, Consumer; Aoife Conway, Skin Lead and Radiation Oncology Nurse, GenesisCare, Mater Hospital, NSW; Sandra Donaldson, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Kath Lockier, Consumer; Dr Isabel Gonzalez Matheus, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Principal House Officer, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; A/Prof Andrew Miller, Dermatologist, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Dr Helena Rosengren, Chair Research Committee, Skin Cancer College of Australasia, and Medical Director, Skin Repair Skin Cancer Clinic, QLD; Dr Michael Wagels, Staff Specialist Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, Princess Alexandra Hospital and Surgical Treatment and Rehabilitation Service, and Senior Lecturer, The University of Queensland, QLD; David Woods, Consumer.
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