Men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer often encounter a very difficult initial decision: treat the cancer or not? If they decide to treat it, which option is best-suited for them?
In the past, treatment options were limited to radical, aggressive, whole gland therapies such as surgery and radiation. Radical treatments can carry a significant risk of side effects such as impotence, incontinence (loss of urine control), or loss of ejaculate. Some men choose active surveillance, in which we actively monitor the cancer for any signs of progression. This option is not appropriate for all men, since some cancers are aggressive enough to require actual treatment.
There has been no “middle ground option” for men seeking treatment without the high risk of negative side effects. That is until now.
What is Focal Therapy?
Focal therapy is an excellent option between active surveillance and radical treatments for properly selected patients with prostate cancer. With focal therapy, treatment is only directed on the areas of the prostate that have cancer. This leaves healthy prostate tissue intact and limits the risk of side effects. Some of the benefits of focal therapy include:
- Good oncologic outcomes – Focal therapy is effective at destroying specific areas of cancer while leaving the healthy tissue intact and preserving prostate function.
- Minimal side effects – The risk of side effects, such as incontinence and impotence are low and often temporary as well as less severe when compared to more aggressive treatments.
- Repeatable – Since focal therapy is a targeted treatment that leaves the prostate intact, further treatment with other therapies is possible, if necessary.
- Outpatient Treatment – Focal therapy is a short procedure that is typically performed in an outpatient setting.
Focal therapy can be performed using HIFU or cryosurgery.
What is Focal HIFU?
Focal HIFU (High Intensity Focused Ultrasound) is an ablative therapy where controlled thermal energy is delivered through a rectal ultrasound probe to precisely destroy prostate cancer cells. This minimally invasive treatment option is performed on an outpatient basis and provides over 90% efficacy for most men while preserving urinary and sexual function.
What is Focal Cryosurgery?
Focal cryosurgery is also an ablative therapy. With cryosurgery a metal probe delivers a solution that freezes and kills the cancerous tissue. Men undergoing this outpatient treatment option experience minimal pain and good oncologic outcomes. This procedure is performed in the U.S. and is typically covered by insurance.
Candidates for Focal Therapy
Focal therapy is an appropriate treatment option for men whose cancer is unilateral, early stage and low volume. It is also an option for those who would like to minimize their risk of treatment related side effects.