High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) is an acoustic ablation technology that uses ultrasound waves to destroy cancerous tissue in the prostate. Although approved for use in the United States by the FDA in late 2015, HIFU has been used successfully as a treatment option for select prostate cancer patients around the world for many years.
How HIFU Works
HIFU therapy utilizes focused sound waves to heat and destroy cancerous tissue within the prostate with great accuracy. A computer-controlled HIFU delivery device transports the ultrasound energy through a probe placed in the rectum. These waves are then targeted directly at the prostate for accurate ablation and destruction of the diseased tissue.
This minimally invasive procedure is performed under general anesthesia and typically takes under two hours. The radiation-free treatment is usually performed one time on an outpatient basis, but can be repeated as necessary without causing adverse effects to surrounding tissues.
In select cases, HIFU can be used for focal treatment, which is selective treatment of the cancerous areas within the prostate alone, leaving the non-cancerous portions undisturbed.
Benefits of HIFU
- The HIFU device uses an ultrasound with multiple sensors which allows the physician to both accurately treat and safely monitor the progress of the treatment simultaneously.
- The imaging technology allows the physician to locate and avoid vital structures, including the rectal wall, neurovascular bundles, and the urethra, which lowers the risk of side effects.
- Because the therapy uses ultrasound waves and not radiation to destroy cancerous tissue, the treatment does not damage surrounding tissues or organs, and can be repeated, if necessary.
- HIFU can be used as a prostate cancer salvage technique when other primary treatments, such as radiation or cryotherapy, fail.
- HIFU can use MRI imaging technology to accurately image the area of the prostate with cancer. Treatment can then be directed at this area only, leaving the benign areas of the prostate untreated. This type of focal therapy reduces the risks of side effects otherwise associated with treatment of the entire prostate gland.
- Many prostate cancer treatments have high incidences of side effects, particularly incontinence and erectile dysfunction. This risk is significantly reduced with the precision offered to physicians using HIFU technology.
For men who are potential candidates for this treatment, your urologist will discuss the benefits and risks of HIFU, and whether this treatment option is right for you.