What is HIFU?
The HIFU therapy allows the clinician to get a live image of the prostate and cancerous tumor, then target and kill the tumor with a beam of clean ultrasound energy, which effectively destroys the cancerous tissue without affecting the surrounding healthy tissue. HIFU energy works like a magnifying glass and sunlight. Using a magnifying glass, you can focus energy of the sun and concentrate it over a focus point while allowing safe and harmless energy transfer over the entire course of that beam until it reaches the point of concentration.
Why Choose HIFU?
HIFU is a relatively new option for the treatment of prostate cancer and finally available in the United States as of November 2015. In most cases, HIFU is a 1-3 hour, one-time procedure performed on an out-patient basis under anesthesia. Unlike radiation, HIFU is non-ionizing; this means that HIFU may also be used as a salvage technique if other prostate cancer treatments fail. With HIFU, there is no blood loss and minimal recovery time. In addition, HIFU can be used in focal therapy, like in radiation or surgery. Focal therapy allows the HIFU physician to treat just the small area in the prostate containing cancer while leaving the rest of the prostate unharmed, in men with low volume disease. Focal therapy further reduces the side effect risks of the procedure and makes HIFU the least invasive procedure offered for prostate cancer.
When HIFU is being performed, the treatment can be monitored using real time imaging captured by the treatment delivery device. A technology called TCM/tissue change monitoring confirms the heat generated from the ultrasound energy is raising the target temperature and destroying the cancer tissue while leaving the surrounding tissue unharmed. This provides pinpoint accuracy throughout the procedure, making HIFU highly effective when compared to other, more invasive procedures. Another reason why HIFU preserves erectile function at a better rate than radiation therapy is the steep temperature gradient created using the ultrasound energy of HIFU. When HIFU targets a lesion, only that lesion is affected while tissue 1 cm away remains unheated. This is unique to ultrasound energy heat as radiation energy does not create that gradient and although the radiation energy is aimed at a specific lesion, the surrounding tissue does get heated up and affected as well.
How HIFU Works?
High Intensity Focused Ultrasound, or HIFU, utilizes highly energized, high frequency sound waves that are focused on a single spot. The accompanying pressure waves collide with one another, releasing a tremendous amount of energy instantaneously. This released energy is converted into heat causing the temperature to immediately rise. For prostate cancer, the temperature is allowed to rise to 100 degrees Centigrade (boiling!), which leads to death of the cancer. Furthermore, the oscillating nature of the waves produces rapid fluctuations between high pressures and low pressures within the cancerous tissue itself. This leads to a process known as cavitation, a process that is lethal to cancer cells. By combining these two unique properties and focusing them onto the cancerous tissue, effective eradication of the cancer can be instantaneously achieved. One of the most important aspects of HIFU, is that being treated with it does not preclude patients from being treated with surgery or radiation, should they require further treatment.