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YOUR HEALTH: Prostate cancer killing HIFU waves

Researchers may now be better able to pinpoint which patients will benefit from a high-tech treatment

CLEVELAND — One out of every nine American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime.

Testing healthy men with no symptoms for prostate cancer is controversial.

There is some disagreement among medical organizations whether the benefits of testing outweigh the potential risks.

But it made a difference for Jeff Cardinal.

Though he made a point to stay in shape as he hit middle age, three years ago the results of his yearly physical were alarming.

"Blood work showed that my PSA numbers were a little high."

A biopsy confirmed Jeff had prostate cancer. 

At first, doctors monitored the cancer, which was slow growing while Jeff considered his options.

"At the time they had an option to cut into my abdomen and remove my entire prostate," he recalled.

"Then they also had what they think they called radiation pellets that they would embed in your prostate."

In the meantime, Jeff learned about a newer technology called High Intensity Focused Ultrasound or HIFU. 

The ultrasound waves cause the cancerous tissue to die. 

They're delivered by a probe during a procedure that takes about 90 minutes. 

The FDA approved HIFU for prostate cancer six years ago but doctors say recent research has helped them identify the best candidates, patients with a moderate risk of having the cancer spread and who have one or two lesions on the same side.

"If we can see them on the MRI, that's even better because then we kind of know where we need to treat and we can make that treatment more focal," explained urologic oncologist Dr. Christopher Weight of the Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute at Cleveland Clinic.

Jeff had HIFU earlier in early 2021 and says there were very few side effects but a lot of benefits.

"I don't wake up in the middle of the night having to go to the bathroom five times. I don't have to wear a urine bag. I don't wear a diaper and my hardware works fine."

Although the HIFU treatment is just given one time, doctors test a patient's PSA level again in six months to ensure the treatment is working to kill off the cancer cells.

Other new advances

Prostate cancer treatment is on the brink of a major advance, thanks to new imaging technology that can pinpoint the location of prostate cancer cells. 

This new diagnostic tool allows doctors to see whether the cancer cells are still in the prostate or have spread elsewhere.

It's crucial information for determining the best treatment for patients. 

This form of imaging uses a radiotracer, a radioactive targeting molecule that selectively seeks out and attaches to a protein on the surface of cancer cells.

That protein, called prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA), is not found on most normal cells. 

When the radiotracer binds to the prostate cancer cells, they can be detected using a PET scanner. 

On the PET scan, the cancer cells appear as bright spots.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.