Cryotherapy factsheet


Cryotherapy is a treatment that uses gasses that drop to extreme freezing temperatures when they are compressed or turned into liquid. These gasses are applied to a cancer to freeze and destroy the cells.

Cryotherapy can safely be used on the skin and in the body multiple times without damaging nearby tissue. It can also be used at the same time as other cancer treatments like:

  • chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • radiation therapy
  • surgery to remove tumours.

This treatment is also known as cryosurgery or cryoablation.

 Preparing for treatment

Cryotherapy can be given in different ways depending on where the cancer is in the body.  

Your child’s treating team will give you information and answer any questions about your child’s specific treatment and what it involves. This may include instructions for when to stop eating and drinking before the treatment. 

Cryotherapy is usually done as an outpatient treatment. This means your child will come to the hospital for treatment and then go home after it is finished.

Your child may need to have an ultrasound or CT scan before the treatment to check the exact position of the cancer. 

 During the treatment

Cryotherapy usually takes about 10-30 minutes depending on the method used and where the cancer is.  

On the skin

Your child will be given a local anaesthetic to numb their skin before the treatment. 

Once the area is numb, the doctor will:

  • apply the freezing liquid with a cotton swab
  • spray the freezing gas with a device. 

Inside the body

Your child will be given a general anaesthetic before the treatment. This means they will be asleep and will not feel any pain.

The doctor may use a small tool filled with compressed gas, called a cryoprobe. 

  1. the cryoprobe is inserted into the body during surgery or through a small cut in the skin
  2. ultrasound or MRI scans are used to guide the cryoprobe to the correct spot, limiting the damage to nearby tissue
  3. the tip of the cryoprobe is used to freeze the cancer cells.

Side effects

Side effects treatment on the skin can include: 

  • pain 
  • swelling and redness 
  • blistering 
  • infection. 

General side effects of treatment inside the body can include: 

  • pain and discomfort in the treatment area which should settle within a few days 
  • bleeding from the treatment area
  • damage by freezing normal tissue close to the treatment area.

Rare and longer-term side effects can include:

  • scarring and numbness in the area
  • lighter or darker skin colour in the area. 

 After the treatment

Cancers frozen inside the body will break down and be absorbed into the body before being passed as waste. 

Cancers frozen on the skin will form a scab that will fall off as the skin heals underneath.  


When to call a doctor

Call your treatment team if your child develops: 

  • a fever of 38 °C or higher
  • chills - feeling cold and shivering
  • redness or swelling that reaches areas of skin that haven’t been treated 
  • pain or discomfort that gets worse 
  • skin that is hot or hard to touch 
  • oozing of yellow or green fluid that gets worse
  • a bad smell from the treatment site
  • bleeding that doesn’t stop after applying pressure. 

Support for families

A cancer diagnosis can leave families and children feeling overwhelmed, scared, anxious, and upset. Practical and emotional support during and after treatment is essential and can come from: 

  • family
  • friends
  • healthcare professionals
  • specialised support services.

Speak to your child’s treatment team for information about support services.

Resources and more information

Childhood Cancer Support

Childhood Cancer Support

Email Send email
Phone(07) 3844 5000
Keeps families together during their child's cancer treatment in a compassionate and supportive community environment.
Related Links
Children’s Cancer Institute

Children’s Cancer Institute

Phone1800 685 686
CCI is an Australian medical research institute wholly dedicated to curing childhood cancer. Their website offers information on childhood cancer and opportunities to volunteer, fundraise or donate to help support their work.
Related Links
Australian Govenment - Cancer Australia

Cancer Australia

Phone1800 624 973
A resource that lists information, advice and support organisations available to help you.
Related Links
Last updated Tuesday 7th May 2024


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024