As the most common non-skin cancer in the United States, prostate cancer affects millions of men in America. According to estimates from the American Cancer Society, over 200,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed each year. Fortunately, advances in technology and screening are helping physicians diagnose prostate cancer earlier, giving men more treatment options. One state-of-the-art treatment that has gained significant attention is high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU).
HIFU was cleared by the FDA for prostate tissue ablation in October 2015. HIFU uses ultrasound energy, or sound waves, to heat and precisely destroy specifically targeted areas of the prostate. During HIFU, the sound waves pass through healthy tissues without causing damage. However, at the focal point of the sound waves the tissue temperature rises rapidly to 90 degrees Celsius destroying the targeted tissue. The same principles are used when light is focused through a magnifying glass.
Highly trained and experienced urologists use a combination of MRI and real-time ultrasound images of the prostate to locate the tumor and deliver a treatment to the target area. Focal therapy can precisely treat and destroy the targeted location in the prostate while leaving the surrounding tissues unharmed. When compared to other treatment options, this focal treatment is associated with very low risks of incontinence and impotence and men can return to their normal lifestyle within a few days. There is no hospital stay, no blood loss, no incision, and no long recovery.
The HIFU procedure is done under general anesthesia and depending on the size of the prostate, typically lasts between 1-4 hours. After the treatment session, patients will recover for 1-2 hours prior to discharge. Once released from the facility, patients return home to recover more comfortably. Although it is recommended that patients take things easy, most feel well enough to go out for dinner and maybe even a walk the day of the procedure.
At West Coast Urology, we utilize the Sonablate® HIFU technology. HIFU is most effective for men who have early stage, localized prostate cancer that has not spread outside the prostate. HIFU can be repeated in the future if necessary, and HIFU treatment does not preclude future surgery or radiation on the prostate. HIFU may also be a treatment option for recurrent prostate cancer for patients who were treated with radiation in the past. Not all patients are optimal candidates for HIFU, and men must discuss their specific condition with their urologist to formulate an individualized treatment plan for their prostate cancer.