Non-invasive option in prostate cancer treatment

Two years ago, Frank Roundtree was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After some research, he decided to take part in a clinical trial for a new treatment.

"They did some testing on me and found out that I was a candidate for HIFU if I wanted it," he said. "It was my decision."

HIFU stands for High Intensity Focused Ultrasound. It is a non-invasive treatment that uses ultrasound waves to focus in on very specific and very small areas of the prostate.

"If enough of those little spots are added one to the other, then the entire area of the prostate in question can be destroyed and the surrounding tissue is not affected," said Dr. Cary Robertson who is overseeing the HIFU trial at Duke University Medical Center.

Robertson says the therapy only works well under certain conditions.

"It was designed to take very small prostates with low-grade, low-stage cancers -- the kind of cancers that could potentially be observed for a few years -- treat these cancers and then follow the patient at the end of two years with a biopsy," said Robertson.

Because the treatment spares the tissue surrounding the prostate, there are very few of the side effects associated with other prostate cancer treatments.

"I've had no trouble with incontinence, none whatsoever," said Roundtree. "I've had no pain. I've had no bowel problems. Even my sexual capabilities are back to where they were before I had the procedure done."

If the FDA approves HIFU, Robertson believes more men in their 40s and 50s will be willing to undergo prostate cancer screenings.

"If it becomes knowledgeable to the common public that early stage prostate cancer in young males is amenable to this kind of therapy... and these are the men that have smaller prostates, these are the men that frequently will have small tumors detected very early," he said.

HIFU clinical trials are taking place right now at 18 sites around the country.

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