On October 9, 2015, the Sonablate 450, a high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) system for treating prostate cancer, received FDA approval. The Sonablate uses high intensity therapeutic ultrasound to heat and destroy the prostate cancer without damaging surrounding tissue.
The Sonablate allows doctors to carefully target the diseased tissue within the prostate, heating and destroying it while preserving the healthy tissue around the prostate gland. While not perfect at eliminating side effects, HIFU greatly reduces the risk of incontinence and impotence which are common after robotic prostatectomy. Also, because ultrasound does not use damaging radiation, the treatment can be repeated if needed.
Because this treatment was allowed only offshore, many men had been traveling overseas to receive it. Now that the HIFU treatment option is FDA approved, it is available domestically.
Of course, even minimally invasive treatments carry some risk of side effects. Patients who have the very common Gleason 6 prostate “cancer” may be better off with active surveillance rather treatment since the Gleason 6 lacks the hallmarks of a cancer and is not potentially lethal. Patients must weigh the possible benefits of treatment against the potential side effects before pursuing HIFU or any other treatment option.