High intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is a form of treatment that is used for treating prostate cancer. It is a new method that has not been approved by FDA and therefore not being used in the United States. The procedure does not require any surgical intervention and there is a reduced chance of getting infection.
What is HIFU?
High intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is a treatment that is used for prostate cancer. This is where rapid heat is used to destroy the tissues and it is usually focused on the malignant area of the cancer. HIFU is used in the treatment of a single tumor but it cannot be used for malignant tumors (cancer that has spread). This is because the sound waves are focused on the specific tumor or a specific part of tissue and heats it, leading to its destruction. This is done without causing any destruction to the adjacent tissues. This method is minimally invasive that ensures that the cancerous tissues has been destroyed and does not require any surgical procedure.
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How it is Done?
HIFU is performed under spinal anesthesia and this is usually done in theatre. This helps the patient to be free of pain while the procedure is being done. A rectal probe is used to help in pointing of the ultrasound beam to the cancerous prostate. The prostate gland is painted with HIFU energy and this is done while destroying and heating the cancerous tissue. The tissue that has been destroyed is removed from the body using a natural mechanism. The procedure takes approximately 2-3 hours and it targets the cancer cells that are in the prostate using sound waves that are free of radiation.
Is it Safe?
The procedure provides a challenge to the care providers and the patient because its effectiveness and safety has not been proven. The procedure has not been proven by the FDA and therefore it cannot be done in the United States.
The procedure has not been proven to provide long-term safety in terms of treatment. This is because it addresses the cancerous tissue while leaving the organ intact. There are high chances of the recurrence of the cancer where some of the cells remain.
Research has shown that the men who have HIFI have erectile dysfunction after the procedure. This is because of the damage that may occur on the nerves and the blood vessels that help with supplying of blood to the penis. When this nerves and blood vessels are destroyed, there is inadequate blood supply to the penis and this makes it hard to achieve an erection and sustain it.
What are The Advantages of HIFU?
- The procedure is non-invasive and does not require any surgery for it to be performed. The procedure ensures that the cancerous tissues have been destroyed.
- HIFU is a better mode of treatment for the men who are not ready to have surgical procedures and those who have a recurrence of the prostate cancer.
- The procedure does not require any surgical procedure and therefore there is no blood loss for the patient.
- The recovery of the patient after the surgical procedure is quick because no incisions that are made on the patient.
- The procedure can be done as an outpatient and the patient does not require admission unlike other surgical treatments for prostate cancer.
What are The Disadvantages of HIFU?
- The procedure usually causes the impairment of the erectile function depending on where the tumor was located.
- The patient has to stay with a catheter for sometime after the treatment.
- The procedure has many side effects that include problems with passing urine where the patient may present with retention.
- The procedure is not approved by FDA and it is not available in US. This makes it very expensive for patients who have to use it for treatment because they have to travel to other countries for the procedure to be done. This is usually not covered by most insurance leaving the burden to the patient.
- The information that is available prior to treatment is not accurate and most of the time it is limited. Unlike surgeries, the other parts of the body that have the cancer can be missed out. This is because the procedure does not give one the opportunity to assess the affected area and the surrounding structures like the seminal vesicles and the lymph nodes.
Similar Options for HIFU?
The other similar options that can be used for HIFI and they include radical prostatectomy. This surgery is done to remove the prostate together with the cancer that is inside. This procedure is usually done where the cancer is contained in the prostate and has not spread.
Active surveillance is a method in which the prostate cancer that is contained within the prostate is monitored. In cases where the cancer is not growing, it is left undisturbed. This is because prostate cancer grows very slowly and one might not need any treatment.
External beam radiotherapy uses x-ray beams that have high energy to treat the prostate cancer. The beams are directed to the cancer cells from the outer side of the body and they help to destroy the cancer cells and stop their growth.
How HIFU Can Lessen Can Risk of Erectile Dysfunction?
Most of the treatments that are used in the treatment of prostate cancer are associated with high incidences of erectile dysfunction. The men who have HIFU for the treatment of cancer have a reduction in the erectile function but this is experienced immediately after the treatment. The erectile function usually returns by six months unlike other forms of treatment where this may take longer.
The safety of the procedure has not been approved by FDA. Few countries use this method and this includes Mexico. The procedure is effective in prostate cancer where the cancerous cell is contained in the prostate. The procedure is non-invasive and therefore safe for the patients who do not intend to have surgery.