Learn more about HIFU at King Edward VII’s Hospital
Why would I need High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) treatment?
Men that have prostate cancer that hasn’t spread outside of the prostate (called localised prostate cancer) can see if their cancer is suitable for HIFU treatment by discussing it with a urologist who offers the treatment. An MRI scan and a biopsy are needed to assess the prostate, and to see if HIFU would be a suitable treatment.
What symptoms does High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) treatment address?
High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) can treat newly diagnosed or a returning prostate cancer that hasn’t spread to any other part of your body.
The symptoms of prostate cancer can include:
- The need to pass urine more often, especially during the night
- An urgent need to pass urine
- Difficulty in starting to pass urine
- A weak flow or trickling when you pass urine
- A feeling that you haven’t emptied your bladder even though you’ve just been to the toilet
- Blood in your urine or semen
However, the majority of men who have treatment for localised prostate cancer haven’t had any symptoms. They are likely to have had a blood test for prostate cancer that was high for their age.
When should you speak to your specialist about High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) treatment?
If you have any of the symptoms that can sometimes be associated with prostate cancer, speak to your specialist as soon as possible. If you have prostate cancer, you will be able to speak to your specialist doctor about your treatment options, including if you’re suitable for High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) treatment.
How is High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) treatment performed?
High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) treatment is performed under a general anaesthetic and most patients can return home from hospital the same day. The procedure takes around 60-90 minutes to perform dependent on how much of the prostate gland requires treatment.
Your surgeon will place an ultrasound probe into your back passage. This probe emits beams of high frequency ultrasound waves that heat up cancerous cells, destroying them.
Your surgeon will move the ultrasound beam around very slowly, viewing everything on a screen, to make sure they’ve targeted the area with the cancer in it, and avoided treatment to any of the sensitive areas around the prostate.
What is the recovery like for High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) treatment?
Your recovery from High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) treatment will depend on multiple factors, including your age, fitness level and the nature of your procedure.
When you wake from the anaesthetic, you will have a catheter, a long thin tube attached to a bag, inserted into your bladder to drain away urine.
This is because your prostate will be swollen and can mean that you can’t urinate normally. This will last for a few days. Your nursing team will show you how to manage your catheter at home and will organise its removal.
For up to a week afterwards, you may feel some discomfort around your back passage which should be relieved by painkillers.
You will have a post-operative MRI scan 1 week after treatment and your surgeon will discuss the outcome of your treatment and any next steps at a follow up appointment after your procedure.
Are there any risks/complications associated with High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) treatment?
As with any medical procedure, it’s possible for risks or complications to arise. Speaking with your specialist or surgeon beforehand will help you to understand what these might be in your case.
High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) treatment has a relatively low risk of serious complications compared to other prostate cancer treatments. That is because it is used to treat smaller cancers in the prostate. Because it is a small treatment, it can be used again if needed in the future. Other treatments, such as removal of the prostate, or radiotherapy, can be used if prostate cancer comes back after HIFU. About 1 in 15 men might need surgery or radiotherapy by 5 years after HIFU.
Most men will notice some temporary discomfort, which is helped by simple painkillers such as paracetamol. The risk of urine leakage is very low, at less than 1 in 100. Two in three men who have no problems with sexual function before HIFU will be able to have natural erections after HIFU. One in three men will need some tablets, to help with erections during the first year after treatment.
Most men will notice that the amount of fluid that comes out when they ejaculate will be reduced after HIFU. They should discuss this carefully their urologist if they have plans to have children after HIFU treatment.
How can I prepare for High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) treatment?
Prior to High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) treatment, your surgeon will discuss with you how best to prepare. Men will have an enema, to empty the bowel, a couple of hours before the treatment.
Are there alternatives for High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) treatment?
There are various treatments for prostate cancer and each patient is different. Your specialist will discuss your options and help you decide which treatment is best for you. Your HIFU Treatment London consultant will talk you through the options and give you time to make your decision.