Alternative approach for the treatment of prostate cancer uses sound waves

Feb. 28, 2022

UC San Diego Health is first in San Diego County to employ high-intensity, focused ultrasound for minimally invasive prostate cancer treatment, according to University of California San Diego Health.

High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is a minimally invasive, outpatient treatment for localized prostate cancer. The technology uses high-frequency sound waves directed at the cancerous tissue through an ultrasound probe inserted into the rectum.

The sound waves target and heat the cancerous tissue to temperatures high enough to cause cell death.

HIFU provides an alternative to surgery or radiation for eligible patients. UC San Diego Health is the only hospital system in San Diego County to offer HIFU to prostate cancer patients.

“As the only academic medical center and National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the region, we can offer patients leading edge treatment not always available at other health care systems,” said Scott Lippman, MD, Medical Oncologist at UC San Diego Health and associate vice chancellor for cancer research and care and professor of medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “Our experts continue to improve approaches for prevention, diagnosing and treating cancers.”

Through the advanced HIFU system, high-resolution images are combined with biopsy data and real-time ultrasound imaging to provide urologists with a 3D view of cancerous tissues. Physicians can then draw precise contours around the diseased tissue, ablate only that portion of the affected organ and minimize damage to surrounding structures, which include nerves important for erectile function, blood vessels and muscle tissue. For the patient, the approach minimizes the risk of urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction.

At the end of the procedure, a temporary urinary catheter is placed to limit the risk of urinary retention (inability to pass urine) due to the temporary swelling of the prostatic urethra. The catheter is typically removed three to five days after the procedure.

“Using a multi-disciplinary approach, we can now treat eligible prostate cancer patients with a state-of-the-art piece of equipment that results in removing cancerous tumors with extreme accuracy and quicker recovery times because no incisions are required,” said E. David Crawford, MD, Urologic Oncologist at UC San Diego Health.

Prostate cancer is the most common solid organ cancer diagnosed and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in males in the United States. When found early and treated appropriately, the five-year survival rate is nearly 100 percent.

Despite the serious nature of some prostate cancers, many cases are non-aggressive. A nuanced, multi-disciplinary and personalized approach is required to give each patient the appropriate treatment at the right time.

Ideal candidates for HIFU are those who have early-stage, low- to intermediate-grade cancer that is confined to the prostate. HIFU is used to treat a single tumor containing part of the prostate, half, or in all of the gland.

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