Prostate cancer is the most common form of non-skin cancer and the leading cancer among men in the United States. Worldwide, over 700,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed every year. In North America, Japan and Europe, there are an estimated 38.7 million men affected. Prostate cancer is more common with age, with increasing age leading to increasing risk to develop the disease.
There are no obvious symptoms in the beginning stages of prostate cancer and men over 50 are encouraged to see their Urologists regularly. Examinations and tests are required to diagnose prostate cancer, and further tests are required to classify the stage and PSA levels if prostate cancer is determined. When cells within the prostate grow uncontrollably, very small tumors develop within the prostate. To indicate how far the cancer has spread and to represent the size of the cancer, there is a labelling system of T-1 through T-4. Depending on the localization and stage of the cancer, alternative prostate cancer treatments are available.
One of the newer, non-surgical treatments available is HIFU – or High Intensity Focused Ultrasound. This procedure is popular in Europe and Canada, but not available in the U.S. The ultrasound waves are focused into the area of the prostate containing the cancer, where the cancer cells are heated to a high temperature, destroying them. The ultrasound waves are emitted through a transducer which is inserted through the rectum, requiring only a spinal anesthesia and some mild sedation. The transducer is equipped with ultrasound imaging so the prostate can be seen on the controlling computer monitor and the Urologist in charge of the procedure can focus on the prostate images to avoid damaging surrounding tissue and nerves.
The first clinic in Canada, which has now performed over 700 procedures, is Maple Leaf HIFU in downtown Toronto. The medical director is Dr. William Orovan, a urological surgeon, professor and Chair of the Department of Surgery at MacMaster University.
“Men are being diagnosed earlier and earlier with prostate cancer. There are a significant number who won’t want radiation therapy or surgery, which are major, invasive techniques, so for them HIFU is a very attractive alternative,” according to Dr. Orovan in the National Review of Medicine (2008/03/05). Besides being non-surgical and effective, the recovery time is greatly reduced and the side effects are minimal compared to other forms of prostate cancer treatments. Learn more about alternative prostate cancer treatments.