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Prostate cancer treated with soundwave technology

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Early prostate cancer could be treated with soundwave technology instead of surgery, new research suggests.

Trials at University College Hospital and the private Princess Grace Hospital, both in London, also found that the experimental therapy led to fewer side-effects.

A total of 172 men whose cancer had not spread beyond their prostate were given general anaesthetic and treated with high-intensity-focused ultrasound (HIFU) - which uses high-frequency sound waves to kill cancer cells.

HIFU works by heating up small amounts of tissue to a temperature of between 80C and 90C. The technique can be used to treat the whole prostate or just the areas with cancer.

The procedure took an average of five hours for 78% of the cases and of the 159 men followed up a year later, 92% were found to be cancer-free at that time.

Men with prostate cancer are usually treated with surgery or radiotherapy, which is equally as effective but involves a hospital stay of two to three days, while men having radiotherapy usually need daily outpatient treatment for up to a month.

The results, published in the British Journal of Cancer, found that only 1% of men treated with HIFU experienced incontinence, none had any bowel problems and 30% to 40% had impotence. This compares with between 5% and 20% who usually suffer incontinence after surgery or radiotherapy, and half who suffer impotence.

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