Doctors believe a “revolutionary” sound wave technique being used to treat prostate cancer could be as effective as surgery or radiotherapy – and cause fewer side effects.
Tim Dudderidge, a consultant urological surgeon at Southampton General Hospital, is among a small group of clinicians in the UK performing High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) on NHS patients.
The procedure, which sees patients leave hospital the same day, allows surgeons to focus high frequency sound waves directly on to tumours in the prostate gland at 80 to 100C without affecting surrounding healthy tissue.
Although conventional treatments such as surgery to remove the whole prostate – known as radical prostatectomy – or radiotherapy can effectively treat tumours, patients often suffer side effects such as incontinence or impotence.
In a study led by University College Hospital (UCH) in London, researchers followed 625 men – which included 50 patients from Southampton – between 2004 and 2015 with tumours in one part of the prostate which had not spread beyond the gland.
The results, presented by UCH consultant urological surgeon Mr Hashim Ahmed at a meeting of the European Association of Urology in Munich, found 93% of patients who underwent HIFU alone remained cancer-free without any need for surgery or radiotherapy five years after treatment.
In addition, only 1 to 2% of men who underwent HIFU experienced long-term urinary incontinence – compared to between 10 and 20% of men who have had surgery or radiotherapy – and just 15% suffered erectile dysfunction, compared with between 30 and 60% of surgical patients.
Prostate cancer mainly affects men over 50 and is the most common type of cancer in men, with around 37,000 new cases diagnosed in the UK every year.
Mr Dudderidge, who co-authored the study, said: “The results of this study are impressive and have the potential to transform prostate cancer treatment for many men in the future.
“It is extremely exciting technology and these results show that in men diagnosed early by prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood testing, this targeted therapy could be as effective as surgery to remove the whole prostate gland or radiotherapy and cause far fewer side effects.”