A Patient’s Guide to HIFU for Prostate Cancer Treatment

HIFU, or high-intensity focused ultrasound, is used as a prostate cancer treatment that involves targeting a specific area of cancer cells with the use of high frequency sound waves. Doctors may consider this treatment for patients with recurring prostate cancer or a new diagnosis of this cancer. It is not considered for patients whose cancer has metastasized, or spread elsewhere in the body.

 What Are the Advantages of HIFU Treatment?

HIFU prostate cancer therapy is minimally invasive, reducing the risk of side effects and overall recovery time. It also protects the healthy tissue, reducing overall trauma to the prostate and body.

 What Should You Expect Before the Procedure?

Before receiving HIFU for prostate cancer treatment, a doctor may recommend a prostate biopsy to better gauge overall prostate health and cancer progression. An MRI imaging study may also be recommended to better assess the prostate.

On the day of treatment, it is important to have clean bowels, so the doctor typically provides an enema to empty them. Approximately six hours before the procedure, you are expected to refrain from drinking and eating.

What Happens During the HIFU Procedure?

You will receive general anesthesia so that you sleep through the HIFU procedure, or spinal anesthesia so that you do not feel any discomfort. You are placed on a table on your side and the doctor inserts a probe through the rectum to reach the area of the prostate being treated. It typically takes approximately two to three hours for the total procedure.

HIFU cancer treatment sends ultrasound waves through the wall of the rectum. These waves destroy cancer cells via generating enough heat. This prostate cancer treatment works to preserve the prostate gland while killing the cancer cells to reduce the risk of side effects.

What Is a Typical Post-Procedure Experience?

It is not uncommon to have some discomfort following HIFU treatment. The most common side effects include urinary leakage, urgent urination and frequent urination. Approximately 93 to 99 percent of men, however, have urinary continence after the procedure, per the International HIFU Organization. Previous cancer treatments, such as radiation or removal of the prostate, may impact the side effects a man experiences and their severity.

Other potential side effects include pain, urinary tract or testicle infection, bloody urine and a hard time urinating. Erection problems are also possible. However, the International HIFU Organization reports that erectile function remains for approximately 70 to 95 percent of men following this procedure.

A hole between the urethra and rectum and not being able to bear children are potential long-term side effects. Both are reported to be relatively rare. A small surgical procedure can repair the hole, and men have the option to deposit sperm in a sperm bank if they want to eliminate the risk of not being able to have children.

As of today, HIFU therapy is available in the United States and approximately 50 other countries throughout the world. Talk to your doctor about this prostate cancer treatment and evaluate the benefits versus the risks to determine if it is ideal for you.