high-intensity-focused-ultrasound2Cancer has remained a major public health problem for both men and women in the United States with prostate cancer being the second most diagnosed disease second only to cancer of the lungs. In fact, 25% of deaths in the United States are caused by some type of cancer. On the horizon, highly effective and innovative treatment modalities are currently being explored by oncologists and urologists alike.

The fight against cancer still rages on the front lines in hospitals, clinics, and research centers worldwide and the survivor rates are increasing. According to statistics provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of cancer survivors has increased exponentially in the last forty years. Furthermore, people diagnosed with cancer are living far longer after their diagnosis and in many cases live for more than two decades after the cancer has been identified.

One of the largest groups of survivors suffered from prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among men, but early detection and advanced treatment has drastically increased survival rates. New modalities, often developed decades ago, have been introduced in recent years with much success. Some of these new types of urologic treatments include lasers, microwaves, and HIFU procedures.

A recent introduction of a 1940’s developed treatment known as high intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU, has been met with a high degree of success and has been increasing in popularity as a treatment for prostate cancer. Worldwide, in excess of 100,000 cancer cases have been successfully treated using HIFU technology. The application of the HIFU encompasses highly focused ultrasound waves into the core of the cancerous tumor.

Once the waves permeate the cancer tissue, the cells are heated to 185 degrees Fahrenheit, destroying the cancer tissues completely. One of the main advantages of a HIFU over other procedures such as a radical prostatectomy is that ultrasound waves are truly non-invasive. Because no incisions are necessary, bleeding is held to a minimum. Another advantage is a drastic reduction in common prostatectomy side effects including erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence. These side effects do not manifest, largely because the precise targeting of the cancerous growth does not damage the surrounding tissues.

There are also other advantages to the ultrasound procedure. In contrast to highly invasive and debilitating cancer treatments, the HIFU procedure takes about two hours and is performed on an outpatient basis in a clinical or office setting. A spinal or general anesthesia is used and extended hospital stays are exceedingly rare. The procedure itself requires a small probe that will generate the ultrasound energy to be inserted into the patient’s rectum. Once the probe is inserted, it will be in a position to target the cancerous tumors and destroy them with the ultrasonic waves.

The urologist performing the HIFU will monitor the prostate gland during the procedure. Using images derived from the ultrasound mapping, the physician can target and ensure the complete destruction of the prostate cancer and reduce or completely avoid injury to other vital tissues.