The power of sound is being used to obliterate prostate cancer — without causing the serious side effects the come with other treatments.
Surgeons say the high-powered beam of ultrasound is so precise that it destroys tumors without damaging delicate surrounding tissues, including the nerves that are critical for male sexual function.
Conventional surgery or radiotherapy leave half of men impotent and a fifth incontinent.
As a result, men with slow-growing tumors are advised to leave their cancers alone and have regular monitoring rather than treatment.
But of the first 18 men in a new trial of the ultrasound treatment, none has suffered from incontinence. And only one has had significant impotence.
Richard Hindley, consultant surgeon at the North Hampshire Hospital in Basingstoke, England, described the technique as a "no-brainer."
"For some men the thought of being monitored doesn't rest easy and there is always the concern that their cancer will progress and need more radical treatment," he said. "The radical treatments we have come with a significant risk of collateral damage "
The hospital is conducting a trial of high intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU, with University College Hospital in London. It's partly funded by the charity, The Pelican Cancer Foundation.
Surgeons use a highly focused beam of ultrasound to target prostate tumors with pinpoint accuracy.
A three-second burst of energy vaporizes an area smaller than a grain of rice.
It's so precise that surgeons call it the male lumpectomy. Healthy tissue, including the urine tube that runs through the middle of the prostate, and nearby nerves that control erections are unlikely to be damaged, surgeons say.