Most men with early prostate cancer typically have no symptoms which makes the fact that nearly one-quarter of a million men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer each year even more staggering and begs the question, what can be done to treat those afflicted. HIFU stands for High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) and is a revolutionary outpatient procedure used to treat localized or organ confined prostate cancer . The minimally invasive procedure uses the power of ultrasound waves (acoustic surgery) to quickly and efficiently destroy the prostate gland, along with any cancer it may contain, while lowering the risks associated with more traditional prostate cancer remedies.
The High Intensity Focused Ultrasound treatment is delivered through a specialized probe inserted into the rectum using a process very similar to light being focused onto paper with a magnifying glass. From the probe, a high intensity ultrasonic beam is focused onto the prostate monitored with computer control along with simultaneous ultrasound imaging to identify the prostate.
In this process the prostatic tissue,including the prostate cancer is heated to about 90 degrees Celsius and destroyed. Organs and tissue adjacent to the prostate are unharmed. The destroyed prostatic cancerous tissue is eventually expelled during urination. The HIFU procedure itself usually takes 2-3 hours to complete and after about an hour in the recovery room, the patient is typically able to walk away and resume his life. Anesthesia is not required, but is often recommended. The treatment can also be combined with radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
The first commercial HIFU machine, called the Sonablate 200, was developed by the American company Focus Surgery, Inc. (Milipitas, CA) and launched in Europe in 1994 after receiving CE approval, bringing a first medical validation of the technology for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). HIFU treatment of prostate cancer is currently an approved therapy in Europe, Canada, South Korea, Australia, and elsewhere. Clinical trials for the United States Sonablate 500 are currently ongoing for prostate cancer patients and those who have experienced radiation failure.