IT’S a revolutionary new treatment for Southampton than can transform the life of those fighting prostate cancer.
For the first time in the city, doctors have successfully treated a patient with an innovative therapy that avoids the need for invasive surgery.
From targeting only cancerous cells in the prostate gland, to offering men a much quicker recovery – High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) has been hailed a major step forward in fighting the disease.
It marks the next stage of one Southampton surgeon’s mission to get the city delivering world-class prostate cancer care.
Consultant urological surgeon Tim Dudderidge is already bringing the latest MRI technology to the city so that lifethreatening cancer can be identified before having an invasive biopsy, reducing the need for unnecessary procedures.
And now he has performed the city’s first HIFU procedure on a 77-year-old who showed signs of some aggressive tumours in one part of his prostate gland.
The therapy allows doctors to destroy unhealthy tissue with rapid heat elevation, with ultrasound energy – or sound waves – focused at a specific location in the body.
Any tissue at that focal point is destroyed but importantly, tissue outside of this spot is unharmed – unlike radiotherapy where both healthy and unhealthy cells are damaged causing significant side effects.
This has been made possible thanks to the MRI technology which means doctors can now locate exactly where the tumours are and which ones pose a danger and those that do not.
Previously, unable to locate where the cancer was, radiotherapy was used to blast the whole gland or surgery was needed to remove the whole prostate in a bid to eradicate the disease.
Both these come with various side effects, damaging the sexual and urinary function in the patients, who could spend weeks in hospital.
But this new therapy has the major advantage of lower side effects because on the cancer is targeted and preserves sexual and urinary function in more than 90 per cent of men treated.
Patients will be given a general anaesthetic and once asleep, an ultrasound probe will be placed into the rectum. The Sonablate or Ablatherm is then able to capture real-time images of the prostate gland, allowing the treating physician to create a customised treatment plan for each patient – pinpointing the areas for treatment.
The physician then uses the Sonablate or Ablatherm, which in Southampton was provided by Nuada Medical, to deliver the ultrasound energy to extremely small target sites, or focal points, throughout the prostate gland.
Unlike radiation, HIFU uses clean energy, so the procedure can be repeated, if necessary, without damaging healthy tissue.
In most cases the HIFU procedure lasts between 30 minutes and three hours depending on the size of the prostate.
A catheter is left in place following the procedure for drainage of urine and will remain for 3-14 days and there is typically little pain associated with the procedure so patients usually get back to their normal routine within just a few days.
Mr Dudderidge, who performed the therapy at Spire Southampton having worked alongside doctors at University College London who pioneered the treatment, said: “For some people, particularly when there’s only cancer on one half of the gland, treating the whole gland seems a bit extreme.
“For our first patient for example, he had some areas of cancer that I felt did need some treatment but he was keen to avoid having surgery, so HIFU seemed to offer the perfect alternative.
“Even with the best nerve sparing surgery to remove the whole prostate you cannot prevent damage to the nerves in the prostate and on average half of men at three months will still be having to use incontinence pads.
“So a great advantage of this is that the patient suffers fewer side effects and can return to their normal lives within days as the risk of damage is much smaller.
“Prostate Cancer UK wants to make sure that all patients are given all treatment options, even if the hospital doesn’t offer it, so I am trying to ensure that we can offer all of the best treatments in Southampton.
“It is important to develop this locally because it means patients do not have to travel far and this is a priority for me, to be able to offer this to those living in Southampton.”
HE HAS become the first patient in the city to benefit from this revolutionary therapy and he couldn’t be happier with the results.
Anthony Amos, from Lyndhurst, was diagnosed with prostate cancer earlier this year and was keen to avoid surgery and the side effects that come with it.
After doing his research he discovered HIFU and having discussed it with Mr Dudderidge, the pair decided it was the best option for the retired businessman.
Having had the procedure the 77-yearold was home the next day and within a week the catheter was removed, with everything pointing to a successful treatment.
Mr Amos said: “From my point of view it went extremely well and I was home the next day.
“In view of what one has been through the recovery so far has been pretty good, there is no doubt about that.
“It’s a very good alternative if you are in a position where you can make that decision.
“From a treatment point of view it is excellent and from a pain point of view it is very manageable.”