Ultrasound baby heart prepare the patient for the procedure

A treatment for men with early prostate cancer but with much milder side effects ultrasound baby heart prepare the patient for the procedure existing therapy has been discovered by British scientists. The procedure uses ultrasound to ‘melt’ tumours instead of putting patients through surgery or radiotherapy which damage healthy cells around the gland. The new sound wave treatment is said to be just as effective but patients have a lower risk of impotence, incontinence and other side effects. They are also released from hospital in a few hours instead of being kept in for days and facing return visits for a month.

Researchers from University College Hospital and the private Princess Grace Hospital, both in London, hope it will offer a ‘third way’ of treating prostate cancer and become available on the NHS. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in British men with 35,000 new cases being diagnosed every year. One in 13 will develop the disease during his lifetime. Can a blast of light really kill breast cancer? Seventy-eight per cent of the 172 men taking part in the trial were discharged on average five hours after receiving the HIFU treatment.

Surgery involves a hospital stay of two to three days while men having radiotherapy usually need daily outpatient treatment for up to a month. Of the initial group, 159 were followed up a year later and 92 per cent did not have any recurrence of the disease. Although this is similar to what would be expected after surgery or radiotherapy, for early prostate cancer the improvement in side effects was startling. The results, in the British Journal of Cancer, show that only one of the men was incontinent, none had any bowel problems and 30 to 40 per cent were impotent. Of men treated with surgery or radiotherapy, between 5 and 20 per cent usually suffer incontinence and 50 per cent become impotent. Radiotherapy can also cause other side effects including diarrhoea and bleeding.

HIFU focuses on very small areas where the tumours are situated and it is expected there will be even fewer side effects the more localised the treatment becomes. Lead researcher Dr Hashim Ahmed, of University College London, said: ‘Men are being diagnosed earlier with prostate cancer because of increasing awareness with many patients in their fifties and sixties now. Survivors: Robert De Niro and Nelson Mandela have both been treated for prostate cancer. It means we are treating them more successfully but the side effects are a big issue. Having to wear pads because of incontinence is not very nice and neither is sexual dysfunction as a lot of these patients are still sexually active. This study suggests it’s possible HIFU may one day play a role in treating men with early prostate cancer with fewer side effects. Professor Peter Johnson, chief clinician at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘This technique needs careful evaluation to make sure that it can produce the same results as the proven treatments for early prostate cancer.

If the treatment can be shown to have less side effects then that will be excellent news, but more research is needed to show this. John Neate, chief executive of The Prostate Cancer Charity, said: ‘HIFU potentially offers a “third way” approach to the treatment of localised prostate cancer – lying between radical treatment, for example, surgery and radiotherapy, that targets the whole gland, and active surveillance that avoids this damage, but can leave a man coping with the anxiety of an untreated disease. No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards. We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

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