Prostate cancer treatment: HIFU (high-intensity focused ultrasound)

High intensity focused ultrasound or HIFU is an experimental treatment for prostate cancer using high-frequency energy beams to heat and destroy cancer cells. Being somewhat new and requiring special skills and equipment, much is still being learned about how well it works and any potential side effects.

Important: HIFU has not been approved for general use in the United States to treat prostate cancer and is usually only available in clinical studies. It is not offered at all hospitals. If you’re interested in it, it’s worth checking if your health insurance will cover it.

How is HIFU treatment done?

You’ll be put under a general anesthetic, and a urologist will insert a small ultrasound probe into the rectum. The urologist uses this probe to clearly see the prostate and then directs the heating energy to the part of the prostate that contains cancer.

There are 2 types of HIFU:
focal and whole prostate

Focal HIFU

Focal HIFU treats a smaller area of the prostate and takes around 1 or 2 hours. It is best for men who only need treatment in one specific area of their prostate. Areas of the prostate which don’t have cancer are not treated, and this reduces the potential for side effects.

Whole prostate HIFU

Whole prostate HIFU treats the entire prostate, and takes about 3 hours.

You should be able to head home the same day as your treatment, although you will need a catheter for a few days.

Are there any side effects
to HIFU treatment for prostate cancer?

A small number of men experience minor urine leakage after HIFU, while some may experience difficulty having good erections. Symptoms can be more pronounced for whole prostate HIFU than focal HIFU.

Read more about side effects of HIFU treatment.

Recovering after HIFU

The heat from the ultrasound causes the prostate to swell—this is normal. Because this causes difficulty urinating, expect to use a catheter for a few days after treatment.

Read more about recovery after HIFU treatment.

Being a good candidate
for HIFU

If you have localized prostate cancer (cancer that hasn’t spread outside the prostate), or prostate cancer that's come back after radiation therapy, HIFU may be an option for you. But remember, this treatment is somewhat new and isn't available everywhere.

Research is currently underway on HIFU to learn more about its risks and how effective it is at treating prostate cancer.
Your doctor can advise you on whether HIFU is a suitable treatment option and how you can access it.

What's next?

Now that you've read up on Prostate cancer treatment: HIFU (high-intensity focused ultrasound), here are some related articles to explore as you continue to build your knowledge and understanding of this topic.
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