Cryotherapy for Skin Lesions

This information explains what cryotherapy is and how to care for yourself after your cryotherapy procedure.

Cryotherapy is a procedure that uses extreme cold (liquid nitrogen) to destroy tissue. It is often used to treat skin lesions (skin growths or patches that do not look like the skin around them). The lesions can be benign (not cancerous) or precancerous. Cryotherapy can also be used to treat skin cancer that does not affect deep tissue.

Cryotherapy also aims to save the area around the lesions and to minimize the scarring as much as possible. 

During Cryotherapy

You do not have to do anything to prepare for cryotherapy.

Before your procedure, your doctor or nurse will wipe away any visible substances on the area being treated. This includes makeup, lotion, or powder.

Your doctor will then spray liquid nitrogen on the area being treated to freeze it.

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After Cryotherapy

  • The treated area will become red soon after your procedure. It also may blister and swell. If this happens, do not break open the blister.
  • You may also see drainage on the treated area. This is normal.
  • The treated area will heal in about 7 to 10 days with minimal scarring, but it will take longer for the discoloration (pinkness, redness, or lighter or darker skin) to go away.

Caring for yourself after cryotherapy

  • Starting the day after your procedure, wash the treated area gently with fragrance-free soap and water daily.
  • Leave the treated area uncovered unless it has ulcers or drainage. If you see any drainage, apply petroleum jelly (Vaseline®) on the treated area and cover with a bandage (Band-Aid®) if necessary.
  • If you have any bleeding, press firmly on the area with a clean gauze pad for 15 minutes. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, repeat this step. If the bleeding still hasn’t stopped after repeating this step, call your doctor’s office.
  • Do not use perfumed soaps, cosmetics, or lotions on the treated area(s) until it has healed. This will usually be at least 10 days after your procedure.
  • You may have hair loss on the treated area. This depends on how deep the freezing went. The hair loss may be permanent.
  • Once the treated area has healed, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to the area to protect it from scarring.
  • You may have discoloration (pinkness, redness, or lighter or darker skin) at the treated area for up to 1 year after your procedure. Some people may have it for even longer or it may be permanent. 
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Call Your Doctor or Nurse if You Have:

  • A temperature of 100.4° F (38° C) or higher
  • Chills
  • Any of the following symptoms at your wound or the area around it:
    • Redness or swelling that extends to areas of untreated skin
    • Increasing pain or discomfort in the treated area
    • Skin in the treated area that is hot or hard to the touch
    • Increasing oozing, or drainage (yellow or green) from the treated area
    • Foul odor
    • Bleeding that does not stop after applying pressure
  • Any questions or concerns
  • Any problems you did not expect
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If you have any questions or concerns, talk with a member of your healthcare team. You can reach them Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm at ____________________. After 5:00 pm, during the weekend, and on holidays, please call____________________. If there’s no number listed, or you’re not sure, call 212-639-2000.
Cryotherapy for Skin Lesions
©2015 Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center - Generated on September 2, 2015