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HIFU for Different Stages of Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the 2nd most common form of cancer among men in the United States. Fortunately, thanks to effective prostate cancer tests and treatment methods, nearly 90% of men diagnosed with prostate cancer survive five years or more. High intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is an effective, non-invasive method to cure stage I and II (T-1 and T-2) prostate cancer with fewer side effects than other common options.


How Does HIFU Work?

HIFU uses an ultrasound beam (sound waves) to raise the temperature inside the prostate to about 185 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat from each beam destroys a tiny, precise area of tissue. The beam is carefully moved in the rectum and fired many times until the entire tumor has been damaged. The procedure takes 1-3 hours, depending on the size of your tumor.

Benefits of HIFU

HIFU is often recommended after unsuccessful attempts at external beam radiation therapy and similar treatment options, or if cancer has returned after these treatments. If HIFU isn’t completely successful, other methods can be tried later. Also, this procedure can be safely done multiple times, unlike surgery and some radiation therapies.

In clinical studies, over 80% of patients are cancer-free shortly after HIFU and many years later. Its success rate is similar to removal of the prostate but with a much less painful procedure and faster recovery time.

What Does HIFU Treat?

HIFU works for stages of prostate cancer that have not spread outside the prostate. T-1 and T-2 prostate cancer can be cured with HIFU, but not T-3 and T-4.

  • T-1 prostate cancer has no signs or symptoms. It’s too small to find in a rectal exam, but an elevated Prostatic Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test may detect it.
  • T-2 tumors have grown large enough to be detected in a rectal exam but haven’t grown past the prostate. One or both lobes of the prostate contain unusually firm areas.
  • T-3 cancer has spread past the prostate gland and may reach the seminal vesicles.
  • T-4 has spread to the rectum, bladder, and/or other organs and bones.

Different Methods for Different Stages

Two types of HIFU may be used, depending on tumor’s size: focal and whole-prostate.

Focal HIFU is useful for small localized tumors, usually in T-1 but sometimes at the beginning of T-2. Focal therapy targets only parts of the prostate that contain cancer cells. Healthy cells are left undamaged. The benefits of focal HIFU are its shorter procedure and faster recovery time. On the downside, cancer is more likely to return in other areas of the prostate if you use focal HIFU. After the procedure, you should have frequent exams to make sure prostate cancer hasn’t spread again.

Whole-prostate HIFU is more useful for larger T-2 cancer. This procedure affects the entire prostate gland. In this way, it’s similar to removing the prostate, but without requiring any surgical cuts and stitches. This method is more prone to side effects and longer recovery time, but it is more likely to completely destroy a larger tumor.