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Promising New Prostate Cancer Treatment

New technique could tackle early prostate cancer with fewer side effects.

There's new hope for the hundreds of thousands on American men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer. Doctors in London used a focused ultrasound beam to target cancer cells on the prostates of 41 men. Heat generated by the ultrasound killed the cancer cells with little of the collateral damage associated with standard treatments. By the time they are elderly, most men have some form of prostate cancer. Each year, more than 217,000 men in the U.S. are diagnosed, with 32,000 dying from the disease. In its early stages, prostate cancer can be cured through treatments like surgery or radiotherapy. Both procedures, however, have significant side effects, such as incontinence and urinary incontinence. This leaves many men reluctant to seek treatment early on. By using high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU), researchers showed that they could kill cancer cells on the prostate, without affecting nearby tissues. One year later, 89 percent of men could still have an erection, and no men had developed incontinence after the treatment. The technique was also effective in eliminating prostate cancer. After one year, 95 percent of men had no signs of the disease based upon an MRI, although four men did require re-treatment. While offering a promising new treatment, the study, published in Lancet Oncology, involved a small number of men. Researchers will need to carry out larger studies to determine how well the technique works over the long-term. Still, it offers hope for treatment of prostate cancer, with less fear of affecting a man’s quality of life.

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