The high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) treatment for prostate cancer offers a non-invasive therapeutic technique which features non-ionizing ultrasonic waves that will heat tissues in the body. This process is useful when increasing the flow of blood or lymph fluid is necessary to create a positive impact on the cancer.
When a man goes through this procedure, then sound waves are used to create temperatures as high as 90°F that can kill the cancer cells in just seconds. Your physician would use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with the ultrasound imaging to know where the exact location of the tumor is. That gives them the opportunity to point the sound waves in the right direction.
Although surgery is not required for this treatment, it can create pain because of the heat. You will receive anesthesia and shouldn’t feel any pain during the procedure. You will then have a catheter placed to catch any urine while the doctors are working. Then the ultrasound probe is placed into the rectum to send the sound waves to where they need to go.
If you have been diagnosed with this condition and are looking for alternative treatment options, then these are the pros and cons of the HIFU procedure for prostate cancer.
List of the Pros of the HIFU Treatment for Prostate Cancer
1. HIFU is approved by the FDA for treatment of prostate cancer.
Although the high-intensity focused ultrasound procedure was hanging in limbo for several years waiting for regulatory approval, it is now available to men in the United States when they receive a diagnosis of prostate cancer. There are two systems currently available that can treat tumors or destroy diseased tissue, making it a useful option for many men. Medicare has already agreed to cover the treatment with their coverage protocol as well, which should impact its level of availability in the near future.
2. It doesn’t take long to produce the results that you want.
The HIFU treatment option takes four hours or less to successfully deal with the prostate cancer. Some patients can have their procedure completed in 60 minutes because of how effective it is. Before you can have it done, your doctor will want you to have an enema to ensure that your bowels are empty. There is also a restriction in place that you cannot eat or drink anything for at least six hours before having the operation.
3. HIFU has fewer side effects for guys than other prostate cancer treatments.
There are far fewer side effects associated with this prostate cancer treatment than the others which are currently available right now. One of the most difficult issues that is associated with HIFU involves having trouble getting an erection for the first few weeks after it is done. Most men see this issue go away over time, and medication can help some guys regain this ability.
Some men report that they have trouble urinating after having the HIFU procedure. They might also leak urine between trips to the toilet. There can also be pain between your rectum and testicles that medication can treat. Rare side effects include a UTI, blood in the urine, and a testicular infection.
4. This treatment option is not something that is new for the rest of the world.
Although the HIFU treatment for prostate cancer is new in the United States, it is something that is been practiced for more than a decade in Europe and Asia. Guys from the U.S. have even traveled overseas to receive this treatment when they were part of a well-selected group that required help with ultra-localized cancer cells. It is such an effective technique that most men after just 7 days of recovery do not notice any significant side effects.
5. It removes the risks of radiation from the treatment process.
This treatment option for prostate cancer kills the cancer cells without needing to use radiation. That means you can kill all of the genetic material that causes the cells to multiply abnormally without irradiating them. Although there is still a risk that healthy cells will be killed alongside the cancer cells with this treatment option, the impact on the rest of the body is relatively minor. You will typically keep your surrounding tissues healthier with HIFU then you would with a comparative radiation procedure.
6. Doctors are able to make adjustments during the procedure.
The HIFU treatment procedure for prostate cancer allows doctors to adapt to what they find after their work begins. This setup makes it possible for the energy to stay focused on the exact location where it can provide the most help. For some guys, that means the entire prostate gland can receive ablation without worrying about making a single incision to start killing off the cancer cells. Then you can return back to your normal life after the procedure. Some guys even celebrate it by going out to dinner that same night.
7. The HIFU procedure uses clean energy to create results.
Doctors can use this treatment for prostate cancer repetitively without causing additional damage to the surrounding tissues or organs as they would encounter with the traditional options. It features non-ionizing energy that allows you to pursue other treatments in the future if your doctor feels that they are necessary. You can even receive another HIFU if that offers the best chance to destroy the cancer. That means you don’t need to destroy your life just to make sure that you continue to have one.
8. It is a procedure that is minimally invasive.
You will not need to worry about having surgery when the HIFU is the treatment recommendation for your prostate cancer. The treatment will have you be put to sleep using a general anesthesia under most circumstances to avoid the pain that the sound waves can cause. The only two items of concern are the catheter that is placed to allow any urine to escape and the ultrasound, which is then placed in your rectum. Your body does not need to recover from incisions like it would with other treatment options.
9. You have more bladder control with the HIFU treatment.
When you and your doctor decide that the HIFU treatment is the best way to treat your prostate cancer, then you will benefit from an increased level of control over your bladder after the work is done. When compared to other treatment options, the issues with incontinence are relatively minor. The risks of a bowel disorder or ongoing leakage are greatly reduced when taking this approach.
List of the Cons of the HIFU Treatment for Prostate Cancer
1. It still requires pre-treatment options before it can be successful.
The reason why HIFU is a successful treatment option for prostate cancer us because it relies on first-hand visualization and real-time data. Guys must go through the entire diagnosis process before this procedure will receive a go-ahead from their treatment physician. Like other treatment options for this cancer, such as CyberKnife, there are CT scans, a prostate biopsy, and imaging requirements necessary that can become costly if your health insurance does not cover the costs effectively.
2. There may not be any availability for this procedure in this region.
Because HIFU only recently received FDA approval to treat guys in United States, there are not many providers currently active in this area of prostate cancer treatment. Some guys may need to travel extensively if they receive a referral for this procedure, which is an expense that is not always covered by medical insurance. If you’re thinking about the pros and cons of HIFU for your condition, then speak with your treating physician to see if they know of someone in your region that offers it.
3. The data used to treat the prostate cancer may be out of date.
It can take some time to go from the initial diagnosis of prostate cancer to an open appointment for your first treatment. Even with the CT scans and other imaging tools used to generate information for the provider, the amount of time between data gathering and treatment can be inaccurate. That means the first treatment may not be as accurate as it could be. It is almost impossible to know the true extent of prostate cancer until a doctor can see it for themselves.
4. Some guys might still need to receive other prostate cancer treatments.
The HIFU treatment may be an effective non-invasive way to stop prostate cancer, but it doesn’t always remove all of the damage tissues or cancer cells. We currently have about 10 years of data from which to work when evaluating the high-intensity focused ultrasound process. What the information shows is that there is a 1 in 10 risk that you may need to receive ongoing prostate cancer treatments after this procedure. When this element combines with the fact that we don’t know what its long-term risks or effectiveness are as of yet, it may not be the right choice for some men.
5. There is a high risk of impotence for men with the HIFU procedure.
According to Dr. David Samadi, a robotic oncology specialist, there is a 15% risk of impotence with optimal patient conditions, surgical results, and post-operative care when using robotic surgery to treat prostate cancer. When the HIFU method is used to attack the cancer cells, then some reports indicate that up to 70% of men are left with impotency. This higher risk is due to the potential for nerve damage in the region where erectile function occurs.
6. Your doctor may want the catheter to stay in for a while.
Some doctors may choose to keep the catheter in place after this treatment for prostate cancer for up to a week – and sometimes more. If you encounter this issue, then it is essential that you review the pros and cons of managing your tubing to ensure that you can begin returning to your regular lifestyle and routine.
7. The HIFU method is only useful in specific situations.
According to Cancer Research UK, the HIFU treatment option for prostate cancer is only effective when there is a single tumor or part of a large tumor that are discovered during the diagnostic process. It cannot be used for guys who have tumors that have begun to spread from this area. You can only receive a referral if the cancer remains localized to the prostate.
The pros and cons of the HIFU treatment for prostate cancer are still relatively unknown. There is a significant lack of clinical data available to support its effectiveness. There is also no information to support the idea that this treatment process is ineffective. Because it is so new, we do not have any information about its long-term treatment success rates either. As more guys receive their cancer treatment using this method, there will certainly be more advantages and disadvantages to consider. As for right now, deciding on HIFU is for you and your doctor.