High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) is a technique that is noninvasive and aims to retain good quality of life for the patient. It is suitable for locally confined prostate cancer T1 or T2, and the prostate may first need hormone treatment to reduce its size. HIFU can be undertaken as a primary treatment with curative intent, though it can also be used to treat recurrence after radiotherapy. In some cases a small TURP operation may be needed in association with the treatment.
The treatment is done under a spinal (epidural) or general anaesthetic, and lasts about two hours. A probe, which emits an ultrasound beam, is placed in the back passage, and the tightly focused beams raises the temperature to destroy the cancer cells in the targeted area without damaging the surrounding tissue. The process is repeated until the cancerous cells have been destroyed. As the prostate swells immediately after the treatment, a catheter needs to be inserted and remains in place for up to 2 weeks.
Although the whole prostate can be treated, research is showing that treating only the diseased parts of the prostate, leaving the healthy part intact (and lessening any side effects), is now a sensible option.
Note: Long term research data is starting to show HIFU to be a recognised first line treatment (subject to NICE approval). It is currently only available at a few centres in the UK.