Probably everyone knows about ultrasound imaging that converts harmless sound waves into medical pictures. It has many uses, from evaluating the development of an unborn baby to diagnosing disease. But did you know that these same harmless waves, when adjusted to a different frequency, can be used to destroy prostate tumors without any cutting or radiation?
It is called High Intensity Focused Ultrasound, or HIFU. As the name suggests, the ultrasound waves are brought to a high intensity where they can then be accurately focused on diseased tissue. As they pass through healthy tissue, they do no absolutely no damage until they reach their target. There, the waves destroy the tumor by generating very high heat.
Perhaps the easiest way to imagine this is to think of
taking a magnifying glass outside on a sunny day.
When tilted at the right angle, the lens focuses the sun’s rays onto a small, very bright point on the ground, which then becomes very hot. Yet the air between the lens and the ground does not heat up.
I am pleased to offer HIFU, a state-of-the-art treatment, in addition to conventional choices. The technology is very sophisticated, and it includes software to precisely plan the treatment using ultrasound guidance (the harmless imaging type). There are tissue change monitors to confirm complete destruction of the tumor while avoiding nearby healthy structures. Because there is no surgery, HIFU can be done as an outpatient procedure and the patient can go home the same day. It has the advantage of rapid recovery. In many cases, HIFU is used to destroy the entire prostate and the tumor it contains. However, for appropriate patients, the nerve bundles that control sexual function can be spared.
HIFU has been used successfully against prostate cancer in Europe, Japan, China, Mexico and South America. There is more than a decade’s worth of research and statistics from these countries, and the results show cancer control comparable to surgery or radiation, but with a much lower risk of urinary and sexual side effects. Needless to say, this is a great benefit to patients who can’t have, or do not wish to have, these other treatments.
Although HIFU is widely used to treat prostate cancer in other countries, it is still in clinical trial in the U.S. This means the Food and Drug Administration is doing its own evaluation to make sure it is safe and effective. However, there is no problem with providing HIFU in a certified medical facility outside the U.S. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and want to find out if HIFU might be an appropriate treatment choice, contact our office at (626) 284-9278. I would be happy to speak with you about it.