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Ultrasound Zaps Prostate Cancer

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

March 26, 2002 -- Men with prostate cancer may soon have a new, less invasive treatment option that promises fewer side effects. Japanese researchers are reporting 100% success in early tests of a high-intensity focused ultrasound treatment that zaps localized tumors.

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. and the most common cancer among men. Although surgical treatment for prostate cancer (radical prostatectomy) can be successful, the surgery can be risky for some. Another conventional cancer treatment option, radiation therapy, can also cause significant side effects such as erectile dysfunction and incontinence.

Those problems have prompted a recent surge in the development of alternative treatments to treat early-stage prostate cancers. But many of these less-invasive procedures don't always completely eliminate the cancer, and some treatments can't be repeated if the cancer comes back.

In a study published in the journal Urology, Japanese researchers tested a new method that uses high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) to deliver intense sound energy to destroy the tumor without damaging the surrounding tissue. Twenty patients with prostate cancer that had not spread beyond the prostate gland received the HIFU treatment either once or twice.

After six months, all 20 patients were cancer-free and had no elevations of PSA (prostate-specific antigen, a substance in the blood that doctors use to monitor prostate cancer). Side effects included difficulty urinating in the first two months after treatment, but the symptoms were easily treatable with medications.

In addition, three of the 10 patients developed erectile dysfunction after HIFU treatment.

In an editorial accompanying the study, John M. Fitzpatrick, MCh, FRCSI, FEBU, of Mater Misericordiae Hospital and University College in Dublin, Ireland, says much more research is needed before HIFU can be used as a safe alternative to traditional therapies. He says the study has only shown that HIFU was effective in eliminating the cancer in the short term, and the frequency of side effects was still relatively high.-->

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