Prostate cancer is the leading cancer among men in North America. Early detection is important since the outlook for successful treatment is very high with the earlier cancer stages. Prostate cancer can grow very slowly or be very aggressive, so your urologist will want to check your PSA levels and do a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis and monitor the disease. Younger men (50-80) faced with prostate cancer are often concerned with significant side effects after treatment. Radiation and surgery can often result in incontinence and impotence. General health, age and the stage of the cancer will also impact the treatment decision.
There are many options for prostate cancer treatment and recovery. The traditional treatments like surgery and radiation are still popular, but urologists are also recommending alternative treatment options including HIFU or High Intensity Focused Ultrasound.
HIFU is a prostate cancer treatment option that uses the heat from the ultrasound waves to kill the cancer in the prostate. The waves are focused and precise up to 1/10thof a millimeter. A specially trained urologist uses a computer controlled rectal probe to recreate a 3D image of the prostate on screen and fires 600-700 pin point accurate ultrasound rays to the targets on the prostate. HIFU can treat the prostate with minimal damage to surrounding tissues and organs. It is also non-invasive and non-surgical, done under a general or local anesthesia.
An outpatient HIFU procedure is beneficial because it helps individuals recover from the disease with fewer significant side effects than other prostate cancer options such as radiation therapy and radical prostatectomy surgery. In fact, no deaths have been reported with the HIFU type of treatment. More quality of life can be maintained after outpatient HIFU treatment is complete as it is much easier on the body.
Generally, individuals who choose this method only need one round of treatment, which can last 2-3 hours. However, more treatments can be scheduled if needed if the cancer is persistent and PSA scores are still elevated months later
Extensive research has been done on outpatient HIFU procedures. Within 48 hours of this treatment the complete destruction of the glandular tissue in the prostate area has begun and by three months it is replaced by a healthier fibrotic tissue. There is a residual effect in the PSA levels of individuals who undergo this treatment. Before beginning the program, these levels are often very high, but begin to regress once treatment has begun until they reach a normal low level.
The HIFU procedure does not require an extended stay. It can conveniently be done in licensed and registered HIFU clinic. The procedure is not available in the U.S., but it is available in Canada and Europe. Worldwide, over 30,000 men have treated their prostate cancer by HIFU.
Most published data and clinical results of more than 10 years of HIFU in Europe and North America are based on the Ablatherm HIFU device. There is one other HIFU device manufactured by a US company called Sonablate. The first North American clinic to offer the procedure was the Maple Leaf HIFU clinic. They began offering the procedure in 2005, shortly after Health Canada approved it in 2003. That clinic, located inside the Cleveland Clinic Canada, is the only North American clinic that offers the Ablatherm treatment. The clinic is staffed by top urologists and is licensed in the province of Ontario.
The HIFU prostate cancer treatment is gaining favor with patients and physicians as it is non-invasive and offers similar success rates to radiation and surgery. Anyone considering treatments should do their research and consider all the options available after discussing treatments with their urologist.