Lung Cancer

Cryosurgery (cryotherapy) and other treatments for lung cancer

Cryosurgery (the application of extreme cold to destroy abnormal tissue) has been used in the UK for lung cancer since 1986. It can be used to unblock airways that have been obstructed by tumour tissue or for people who can’t have or don’t want surgery. 

One man interviewed here described cryosurgery, and explained that although cryosurgery could not cure him it had helped him to feel less “wheezy”. He had had cryosurgery five times and described a recent treatment - the time in the ward before the operation and his post-operative recovery.

A woman who had her first treatment in 2002 also recalled her time in hospital. She had three cryosurgery treatments over a few months, which reduced the size of her tumour by 60%. 

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Complications can occur, as with any surgery, but cryosurgery is usually safe. Possible side effects include a sore throat, temporary voice loss, and difficulty with eating immediately after surgery. Patients may also cough up a bit of blood, and sometimes swelling occurs, which may be uncomfortable and even frightening at first.

Other treatments for lung cancer

As well as surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, biological therapies and cryosurgery, there are a number of other treatments that are sometimes used to treat lung cancer these include:

  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT) uses a photosensitising drug combined with a laser light to destroy cancer cells.
  • Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) uses heat made by radio waves to kill cancer cells.

They can be used for people with small early stage non-small cell lung cancer who can't have or who don't want to have conventional surgery. They can also be used for people with advanced lung cancer where the tumour is blocking an airway and causing breathlessness.


Last reviewed May 2016.
Last updated May 2016.


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