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HealthWatch: Prostate Cancer

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(Credit: CBS 2)

(Credit: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBS 2) — This year there will be nearly a quarter of a million new cases of prostate cancer in this country, which usually means surgery or radiation to try to cure the cancer. Each approach has advantages and side effects such as impotence or incontinence. As CBS 2HD’s Dr. Max Gomez reports, there’s a new technique that may avoid many of those complications through the use of ultrasound.

A certain type of ultrasound that is high intensity, high frequency sound waves is powerful enough to heat and destroy tissue. That’s been tried before in the prostate.

The difference with this new experimental approach is that the sound waves are focused so you achieve higher temperatures and don’t cook the entire prostate, minimizing side effects.

Stephen Brooks, 62, has battled prostate cancer twice. The first time he was treated with radiation, but when it recurred, Brooks got into a clinical trial using the new treatment.

Brooks credits his lower PSA, the marker used to indicate the presence of any remaining prostate cancer, to HIFU treatment, which stands for High Intensity Focused Ultrasound.

“It’s more acurate at delivering energy only to a specific area without  damaging surrounding areas,” said Dr. William Huang of the NYU-Langone Medical Center.

Because it doesn’t harm the rest of the prostate, HIFU has fewer side effects than standard treatments like surgery and radiation.

Right now clinical trials for HIFU are for patients whose prostate cancer has come back. But if it gets FDA approval, the technique could also be used on patients who are diagnosed for the first time.  Brooks  says he wants to be an example for other African American men, since they are more likely than white men to develop prostate cancer and twice as likey to die from it.

“If you don’t take these tests what chance do you have? When you feel the pain, it’s too late,” Brooks said.

More than a dozen hospitals across the. U. S. are part of the HIFU clinical trials, which will take years to complete, and unlike surgery or radiation, HIFU can be repeated.

Why will it take so long to tell if this technique works? It’s because of the nature of prostate cancer. Most prostate cancers are so slow growing that it can take up to a decade to tell if the cancer is going to come back, which is the real test of this technque. Although some of the long term follow up data from Europe and Canada may speed that up.

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