HIFU: The Most Advanced Surgery-Free Treatment for Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the second-most common cancer in men, typically affecting men in their 60s. Though both the cancer and its

Except for skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men, with nearly 175,000 new diagnoses expected in 2019. This is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths for men, though the rate of death has fallen by more than 50% over the past three decades. 

There are many treatment options for prostate cancer and a non-surgical procedure that is showing good promise is high-intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU, that uses heat to target and destroy prostate tumors. 

The prostate gland

Normally about the size of a walnut, the prostate produces seminal fluid, which provides sperm with nourishment and a means of transport. Vulnerable to cancer, the prostate usually develops slow-growing tumors, but there are some types of the disease that strike quickly and aggressively. 

When tumors are discovered and still contained within the gland, there’s virtually a 100% chance of a cure with treatment. Once cancer begins to spread, survival rates fall drastically.

The need for a new treatment

While prostate cancer can be quite survivable, sometimes the cure comes at a high cost, since treatment may have a big impact on your life. Surgery to remove the prostate carries the risk of erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence, while radiation therapy also carries these risks as well as affecting the rectum.

The principle behind HIFU

HIFU depends on energy transfer, in this case, converting sound energy into heat by means of focusing and absorption. The idea is similar to using a magnifying glass to start a fire. You can stand in bright sunlight without problem (ignoring ultraviolet light effects for the moment), yet when you concentrate sunlight with a lens, enough heat is focused to create smouldering when the light is absorbed by tinder.

The same principle works with sound waves. Operating at a frequency beyond the range of human hearing (ultrasound), HIFU uses strong waves that are focused to a point. Using low-intensity ultrasound to create a map of your prostate, the high-intensity source can be aimed with precision to target the prostate tumor. As the high-energy, focused ultrasound waves hit the tumor, it warms to a temperature that’s high enough to kill the cancerous growth. Focusing means that there’s little effect on normal tissue surrounding the tumor.

The advantages of HIFU

The primary advantage of HIFU is the close targeting on the tumor that ultrasound permits, as well as the minimally invasive nature of the treatment. Though the HIFU probe is inserted through the rectum and a catheter is used during and after the procedure, there are no surgical incisions needed.

Once the catheter is removed, usually within a week, you’ll begin to return to normal with lower risks of after effects from treatment, except that it’s likely you’re now cancer-free. In about 10% of cases, some follow-up treatment is necessary. This is about the same rate for follow-up as with radiation or surgical treatment.

HIFU is suitable only for those whose cancer remains inside the prostate, so early detection remains crucial. If you suspect you have one or more of the symptoms of prostate cancer, and you’re in your 60s, it’s the right time to contact Dr. Eugene C. Rajaratnam. Dr. Rajaratnam is an HIFU specialist as well as a full-service urologist, so he can advise you on the best course of treatment no matter what your current condition. Call the office today to schedule your consultation. 

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