It’s no secret that the current most common methods of cancer treatment, surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, have a vast number of unfortunate, painful, and even potentially fatal side effects. That’s why scientists and doctors continue to search for new treatments that not only have higher success rates than traditional methods, but that also come with far fewer (ideally, zero) side effects.
One of the most promising potential cancer treatments to date has been discovered by British doctors at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton, England: High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (Hifu), or sound wave therapy.
High Intensity Focused Ultrasound: Sound Wave Cancer Therapy
Hifu uses sound waves at frequencies above audible human limits to heat up the cells enough to kill them. These sound waves are 10,000 times higher frequency than those used during pregnancy to monitor fetal development or to see other organs. They heat up the cell to a temperature of about 55C for at least one second, just long enough to kill the cell. (1, 2, 3)
This technique is already being used to kill harmful tissues deep in the bodies of patients suffering from metastatic bone lesions, a condition that is extremely painful and decreases recovering cancer patients’ quality of life. (1, 2, 3)
Hifu for Bone Lesions
Hifu has been highly successful at treating bone lesions, as reported by British news outlet, The Guardian. A 52-year retired teacher from London with breast cancer began suffering from painful bone lesions due to the metastatic spread of her cancer. She was treated using chemotherapy, which successfully put her in remission but left her with considerable amounts of pain. When no other treatment options worked, ultrasound was used to target the cells deep in her bones that were causing the pain, with incredible success. (1, 2, 3)
“It transformed my life,” she told the Observer. “Stretching an arm or dressing was excruciatingly painful. After ultrasound, I was much better. I now have a normal life again.” (1)
The Future of Hifu and Cancer
Hifu uses magnetic resonance scanners that can focus the ultrasound beams with millimeter precision, attacking the harmful cells and protecting the surrounding healthy tissues. (1, 2, 3)
The researchers are also designing a special method using the technology to deliver cancer drugs directly to tumors, specifically looking at prostate and breast cancer. It works by injecting a lipid capsule into the bloodstream of the patient that circulates until it gets to the tumor. The doctors will then use ultrasound to heat up the tumor, melting the lipid capsule and releasing the drug directly onto the cancerous cells. (1, 2, 3)
“The technology is completely noninvasive and allows us to monitor changes we are making inside a person instantly,” said Thomas Andreae, therapy director at Philips, which is collaborating with the ICR on the project. “It has all sorts of possible applications.” (1)
Safety and Potential Side Effects of Hifu
So far, very few side effects have been reported with Hifu. That being said, it is still a relatively new treatment and must be continually monitored. When used to treat prostate cancer, some Hifu side effects may include: (4, 5, 6)
Urinary tract infections due to the temporary use of a catheter following treatment
Increased frequency, urgency, mild discomfort, and discharge in urination for first few weeks post-treatment
Scar tissue in the urethra
Rectal fistula (hole in rectum)
The occurrence of the side effects is low, and the more experienced your physician, the more your risk is reduced. (4, 5, 6)
Types of Hifu
Currently in North America, there are two types of Hifu available: (4, 5)
Check out this video below to learn the differences between the two types:
As mentioned already, Hifu is a very new treatment in comparison to the more traditional cancer treatment options. It is not appropriate for all cancers or cancers that are in their advanced stages. You can keep up with the developments of Hifu at the following sites:
Of course, here at The Hearty Soul we will be keeping a close watch out for new developments to keep you and the rest of our readers as informed and up to date as possible. Until then, help us spread awareness about this exciting new weapon in the war on cancer by sharing this article with your friends and family.