HIFU Entails Fewer Side Effects, Lower Cost in Prostate Lumpectomies

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A new study in The Lancet Oncology reports that high-intensity, focused ultrasound treatment not only improves prostate cancer patient outcomes, but does so at a third of the cost.

Researchers at the University College London have discovered that high-intensity, focused ultrasound (HIFU) provides a more accurate tool for targeting prostate tumors, one that offers fewer side effects. Traditional treatments typically involve the irradiation or surgical removal of the gland, which promises either or both impotence and incontinence for patients.

In a report from Businessweek, lead author Hashim Ahmed described how HIFU treatments were about one-third the cost of a prostatectomy in the UK, and that the process improved patients’ chances “of having the perfect outcome,” i.e., being cancer-free, by a factor of nine.

Through MRI and biopsy procedures, physicians target the cancerous sites for removal, and then apply the HIFU technique. The initial, exploratory trial was performed on mid-to-high-risk patients, all of whom underwent general anesthesia and most of whom were home within a day of the treatment.