Urologists in Canada, England, Mexico and the Dominican Republic are treating prostate cancer with a technique called high-intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU. It often avoids the irreversible side effects, including impotence, that can arise during surgery, radiation, and the other treatments available in the United States.
The procedure is performed by inserting a transducer emitting ultrasonic waves into the rectum. The curved transducer puts the waves on converging paths in the same way that a magnifying glass focuses sunlight. Where the streams of energy intersect at the prostate, the temperature soars cooking small batches of tumor cells in seconds.
For about 2 hours the transducer is steadily sifted across rows of space. Tissues just millimeters away from the HIFU target zone remain unharmed. Many feel that this is a less toxic treatment. The cost for such a procedure is about $20,000 – excluding travel and accommodations.
The use of HIFU for cancer could dramatically reduce health care costs. It requires little or no hospitalization and less recovery time than alternative treatments do. Because HIFU is associated with a low rate of permanent complications, it also decreases the cost of treating those side effects.
Terry Pfau DO HMD