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High-Energy Ultrasound Cooks Prostate Tumors

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Currently, only about 25% of patients undergo surgery or radiation treatment for their prostate cancers with all the associated downsides. Others try hormone therapy, which also has side effects, or simply wait and watch the tumor. Chaussy believes for some men who don't want other treatments or can't tolerate them, HIFU appears promising.

"We can tell him what we have available is a technique which has quite good results over a follow-up of four years. That is not comparable to the statistics, which you have with radical [surgery]," Chaussy says.

In fact, other surgeons contacted by WebMD were skeptical of the approach. Patrick Walsh, MD, chief of urology at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, says HIFU can't compete with surgery until it can bring PSA test scores down to undetectable levels. However, Chaussy insists that testing tissue samples directly from the gland are a better predictor of cure.

While acknowledging that the approach may work for some, K.C. Balaji, MD, says he would tend to recommend surgery. "Depending on the [severity] ? I would probably have the most curative solution, which would probably be surgery," he tells WebMD. Balaji is director of urology oncology at the University of Southern Illinois School of Medicine.

Meanwhile, the HIFU approach is not only being investigated in Europe but also here in the U.S. at hospitals in Washington, Houston, and San Francisco.

Vital Information:

  • A German researcher reports another option may become available to treat patients with prostate cancer, joining standard treatments like surgery, radiation, and hormone therapy. The new technique uses a probe inserted into the rectum so cancer cells in the nearby prostate gland may be heated and killed with ultrasound.
  • A recent study showed nearly 80% of the 440 men treated had a cancer-free follow-up test, or biopsy. Nearly all had a clear biopsy after a second treatment of high intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU.
  • Doctors still don't know how HIFU's results will compare to surgery, and some comment that they would still steer their patients to the surgical route.
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