It is a new day for those with prostate cancer.
High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) has emerged among the country’s fastest-growing new outpatient treatment options for prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is eradicated through the precision focusing of sound waves to a targeted spot, creating an interaction between the sound waves and the cancerous tissue resulting in extreme heat that destroys cancer cells.
HIFU is a minimally invasive procedure which offers drastically reduced side effects, such as erectile dysfunction and incontinence, while achieving the same efficacy rates as traditional, more invasive prostate treatment options.
Following on its successful introduction in Europe, Sonablate™ HIFU made its US debut in October 2015 when the FDA cleared the procedure for prostate tissue ablation. Since its introduction, prostate surgeons and urologists nationwide have made HIFU the central procedure in their practice, bringing to their patients diagnosed with prostate cancer a new minimally-invasive option to surgery and radiation.
Focal therapy, often referred to as a “male lumpectomy,” is a general term for a variety of noninvasive techniques for destroying small tumors inside the prostate while leaving the gland intact and sparing most of its normal tissue. Positioned to provide focal therapy to men, Sonablate™ HIFU is a non-surgical, radiation-free, outpatient procedure using focused sound waves to heat and destroy tissue in the prostate. As a result, HIFU delivers a treatment that both eliminates the disease and preserves quality of life.
HIFU has been called a game changer in prostate cancer treatment, replacing the standard procedure that required surgical removal of the entire gland with a targeted therapy that treats the specific tumor location. As men are being diagnosed earlier and looking for less radical treatment options, HIFU offers a less invasive treatment option for those diagnosed with prostate cancer.
There may be no greater an endorsement for a medical procedure other than a physician saying he would have it performed for himself. That was the case for Los Angeles surgeon Dr. Robert Pugach who was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Dr. Pugach also happens to be one of the most sought-after prostate cancer surgeons in Southern California. For years, he has been administering HIFU on his patients. This time, Dr. Pugach determined to have the procedure performed on his own prostate cancer. To do so, he turned to Dr. Michael Lazar, San Francisco’s own go-to surgeon for HIFU. Dr. Lazar was an early user of the HIFU technology, beginning his work with the procedure in 2007. He was credentialed as proctor in 2010 when he helped edit the actual user manual for the HIFU system. To date, Dr. Lazar has been involved in the treatment of over 200 HIFU patients.
Dr. Pugach (left) & Dr. Lazar (right)
HIFU has treated more than 50,000 men with prostate cancer since its initial international introduction over three decades ago in 1995. Numerous studies since have been published on HIFU, demonstrating impressive disease-free rates and negative biopsy rates among men with low to moderate disease levels. The most recent HIFU study shows overall metastasis-free survival five years following the procedure is 97 percent.
Because every patient is different and there are many important factors to be taken into consideration to determine if a patient is a good candidate for HIFU treatment, a consultation with a HIFU surgeon should be scheduled to determine if patients can qualify for the procedure. More information, including the HIFU specialist nearest you, can be obtained by visiting HIFU Prostate Services at https://www.hifuprostateservices.com.
In May 2017, Medicare announced that CMS has approved a payment for a portion of the HIFU procedure effective July 1, 2017. While Medicare doesn’t pay for the entire procedure, this announcement allows partial payment of HIFU for all men enrolled in Medicare. Medicare reimbursement is the first step in the natural progression to the payment for HIFU by commercial payers, such as Blue Cross, Cigna, and United.
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