HIFU stands for High Intensity Focused Ultrasound. Like emerging forms of radiotherapy that focus radiation into a narrow beam, HIFU focuses ultrasound waves so that they hit a target and create an enormous amount of heat. The result is tumor ablation, or the destruction of the tumor, through hyperthermia.
HIFU has applications in the treatment of prostate cancer, specifically in men with unifocal or unilateral prostate cancer (i.e. their cancer is localized to a single tumor within the prostate or multiple small tumors on the same side of the prostate gland). While the treatment can be effective for men with early-stage prostate cancer, the procedure does involve the ablation of the prostate gland, as well as that of the prostatic urethra. While the latter will regenerate, the former will not.
HIFU treatment: Benefits
There are several potential benefits. For example, HIFU treatment:
- … is of course incision-free, and when you can avoid a surgical procedure and still receive effective treatment, you avoid the potential for internal structural damage and for possible life-threatening infections.
- … is a comparatively short procedure, lasting no more than a few hours and almost never requiring an overnight hospital stay.
- … is non-ionizing, meaning it does not expose the patient to any potentially carcinogenic radiation waves.
- … is performed under local anesthesia.
- … can be repeated because of the way it does not damage surrounding tissue or put the patient in a higher risk category for developing secondary cancer.
HIFU side effects
Side effects often relatively mild
The side effects of HIFU treatment are said to be significantly more mild than those brought on by radiotherapy, surgery, chemotherapy, or hormone therapy.
For instance, HIFU treatment can disrupt or damage the structures near the prostate gland that control urination, erectile function, etc, but proponents claim that this is generally not the case and much of the time, even if it occurs temporarily, these functions will return and be preserved in the long-term.HIFU treatment requires that the patient wear a cathetar for a couple of weeks following the procedure, because of the potential for uirinary issues that include frequent urination as well as urgency to urinate. Furthermore, men may experience a discharge of blood or mucus.It involves the complete ablation (destruction) of the prostate gland. It also involves ablation of the prostatic urethra. However, unlike the fate of the gland (which will not regrow), the prostatic urethra is made of bladder squamous-type epithelium cells and will regenerate over time.