What is high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU)?

High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is a medical procedure that uses ultrasound waves to treat prostate cancer.

Ultrasound has wide use in the medical field, including providing imaging during pregnancy. In HIFU, the normally harmless ultrasound waves are produced at a higher intensity and in a highly focused form. Similar to how a magnifying glass focuses light on a target, in HIFU multiple beams of ultrasound focus on the exact tissue area within the prostate that requires treatment. The highly focused energy from the ultrasound causes the temperature of the tissue to rise, and the heat destroys (ablates) the targeted tissue area. The ultrasound beams are able to pass through layers of tissue, leaving them unharmed, until they reach their target.

What is the prostate and how common is prostate cancer?

The prostate is a reproductive gland in men. It is located in front of the rectum in the lower part of the intestine. It is about the size of a walnut and produces fluid that makes up semen.

Prostate cancer is very common in men in the United States. One in five men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Who can be treated with high-intensity focused ultrasound?

High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the ablation (destruction) of prostate tissue. Who the best candidates are for HIFU is somewhat debated by urologists.

HIFU can be considered:

  • As an alternative option to monitoring (no treatment) for patients who have early stage prostate cancer.
  • As an alternative to or follow up to radiation or surgery or other failed treatment for tumors that are small and confined to an area (localized) of the prostate.

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