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Why High Intensity Focal Ultrasound (HIFU) Is So Important

Conventionally, surgery or radiotherapy have been the only effective methods of removing solid Cancer tumours. However, recent technological advancements have resulted in a shift toward less invasive techniques. High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) has promised to deliver the objective of non-invasive, highly targeted tumour ablation, especially in Prostate Cancer cases. Allied with recent technological improvements in imaging, it has emerged as a real clinical treatment option across the United Kingdom.

What is High Intensity Focal Ultrasound (HIFU)?

High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) is a relatively new treatment that uses high energy sound waves to heat and destroy cancerous prostate cells in cases where the Cancer has not spread beyond the prostate. Not all NHS trusts offer this treatment yet, but it is becoming more widely used as a non-invasive treatment for those who have Prostate Cancer. This new type of treatment is so important because surgeons can target small amounts of tissue affected by Cancer, minimising damage to the nerves around the Prostate that are responsible for preserving urinary continence and sexual function.

Before Being Treated with HIFU

Before you receive HIFU treatment, you will need to have an MRI scan and, in most cases, biopsies taken from your Prostate. This is to determine the exact location of the cancer. This helps your surgeon and medical team to make sure that they only treat the area of your prostate that is affected by the Cancer. To have a biopsy(s) taken from your Prostate, you will be given a general anaesthetic then have an ultrasound probe inserted in your rectum. This is so your surgeon can have a close look at where to take the biopsy(s) from. After this the surgeon will take some samples of tissue from your Prostate by inserting small needles usually through the perineum, the area between the anus and the scrotum.

During the Treatment

HIFU treatment can last up to three hours per session. Although the exact time depends on the size of your Prostate, together with how much of it is being treated. Once you have been put under a general anaesthetic, your surgeon and medical team will put a small hollow tube known as a catheter into your bladder. The HIFU probe will then be placed in your rectum. This probe releases a highly controlled beam of ultrasound waves that kills the cancerous cells in your prostate by using focused points of heat. During the treatment, your surgeon will use ultrasound scanning to ensure that the HIFU probe is positioned correctly and directed in the right area. The probe only treats small areas at a time so your surgeon will move it around until all the cancerous cells in your prostate have been destroyed.

After Your Treatment

After you have received HIFU treatment, you will need to rest up until you’ve recovered from the anaesthetic. During this recovery period, you might need some pain relief to help you with any discomfort you may experience while the anaesthetic wears off. You can usually go home on the same day that you receive HIFU treatment. Your medical team will help show you how to manage your catheter once you have got home and advise you on when to return to have it removed. The anaesthetic will affect you for 24 hours following your treatment so your co-ordination will be affected. So, you will need someone to assist you and drive you home.

Check Ups

Following your treatment, you will need to have check-ups with your surgeon or medical team at the hospital where you had the treatment, and then with your GP. This is known as a follow-up, and the primary aim of this is to check how the Prostate Cancer has responded to the HIFU treatment. You will have Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) tests every 3 to 6 months to check how well the treatment has worked.

How to Cope with Prostate Cancer

A prostate cancer diagnosis can change the way you feel about life.  It can make you feel scared, stressed and emotionally overwhelmed. After being diagnosed, there are important treatment choices to make, emotional stress to manage and insurance and paperwork to organise together with any other personal circumstances that might be affected by the illness.

The most important thing you can do is to think positively. Look at all the treatment options that are available to you, along with any side effects, so you know exactly what to expect after you have had your treatment(s). It is also an excellent idea to stay as active as you possibly can; the fitter your body is, the better it will cope with the treatment. Think about your lifestyle and diet; this way, you can make a significant difference in fighting the Prostate Cancer.

Find someone to talk to about Prostate Cancer. It could be a family member or close friend, a counsellor, someone on your medical team or someone you might meet at a Prostate Cancer support group meeting. It is always good to offload what’s on your mind and find answers to the questions you are asking yourself. Try to manage the emotional stress by learning cognitive techniques to help you relax.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

It’s essential to have honest, open discussions with your doctor or consultant if you are going to receive HIFU. GP’s are becoming more familiar with less invasive treatment options such as HIFU, so feel free to ask any questions, no matter how big or small they might seem. Here are some questions that you might want to ask:

  1. Where is this treatment available?
  2. What are my other treatment options?
  3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of HIFU
  4. Can I see the results of HIFU treatment?
  5. What are the side effects of HIFU?
  6. How will I know if the treatment has worked?
  7. Will I need more treatment after HIFU?
  8. What treatments are available after receiving HIFU?

Donate to Prost8 UK Today

Prost8 UK specialises in promoting less invasive treatment options for early stage non-matastatic prostate cancer as well as early awareness of symptoms. It is important to remember that caught early prostate cancer is one of the most treatable cancers, but caught too late it is one of the least.

Our current focus and motivation is raising up to £10m in the next two years by creating running awareness and high profile fundraising campaigns to enable us to buy, donate and deploy HIFU equipment into each of the 14 NHS Cancer Care regions in the United Kingdom, together with promoting more effective screening procedures. Our primary objective is to improve post prostate cancer lifestyle.

1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, so it could be you or a loved one next.  Help us to help all men by donating to Prost8 UK today.