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High intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) for prostate cancer

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This page tells you about high intensity frequency ultrasound treatment (HIFU) for prostate cancer. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

High Intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) for prostate cancer

When high frequency ultrasound waves are concentrated on body tissues, those tissues heat up and die. To use this as a cancer treatment, the specialist targets the area containing the cancer. Because the prostate gland is deep within the pelvis, you have HIFU for prostate cancer by putting an ultrasound probe into your back passage (rectum).

Results from trials have shown that HIFU can be a successful treatment for prostate cancer. But we have to be sure that the long term results will be as good as surgery or radiotherapy. The treatment hasn't been around long enough for us to know that yet. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that HIFU is only used within clinical trials.

Possible side effects of HIFU

In trials, the most common problems reported after HIFU were infections in the prostate area, and leakage of urine (incontinence). Side effects may be more common if you have also had radiotherapy.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Treating prostate cancer section.

 

 

What HIFU for prostate cancer is

When high frequency sound waves are concentrated on body tissues, those tissues heat up and die. To use this as a cancer treatment, the specialist targets the area containing the cancer. Because the prostate is deep within the pelvis, you have HIFU for prostate cancer by putting an ultrasound probe into your back passage (rectum). Doctors call this a transrectal probe. From that position, the ultrasound can direct beams accurately at the prostate.

 

When HIFU is used

Results from trials have suggested that HIFU can be a successful treatment for prostate cancer. Doctors have used it for cancer that has just been diagnosed, or for cancer that has come back in the prostate after earlier treatment. But we need to be sure that the long term results will be as good as the treatments used currently. HIFU hasn't been around long enough for us to know that yet.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has issued guidelines for using HIFU as a treatment for localised prostate cancer. You can download these guidelines from the NICE website. These recommend that HIFU should only be used as part of clinical trials comparing HIFU with standard prostate cancer treatments. There are trials looking at using HIFU instead of surgery or radiotherapy for localised prostate cancer. 

If you are invited to go into a trial of HIFU for prostate cancer, your doctors need to make sure you know

  • What is involved in having the treatment
  • That we don't know everything about side effects yet
  • That we don't fully understand how long term effects of HIFU compare to other treatments
  • What other treatment options you have

Doctors must also monitor all the patients who have HIFU so that we can learn more about side effects and long term benefits or drawbacks. You will sign a consent form to say that all these things have been explained to you before you have the treatment.

You can find information about current trials into HIFU for prostate cancer on our research into treatments for prostate cancer page.

 

Possible side effects of HIFU

In trials, the most common problems reported after HIFU were infections in the prostate area, and leakage or urine (incontinence). Side effects may be more common if you have also had radiotherapy.

 

More information about HIFU

We have information about HIFU in our section about other cancer treatments. You can also phone the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They will be happy to answer any questions.

Our prostate cancer organisations page gives details of other people who can give information about prostate cancer treatments. Some organisations can put you in touch with a cancer support group.

Our prostate cancer reading list has information about books, leaflets and other resources discussing treatments.

If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use Cancer Chat, our online forum.

UK Prostate Link can direct you to information about HIFU for the treatment of prostate cancer.

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Updated: 25 February 2014