Perhaps you scheduled a trip to the Bahamas last holiday season—to get HIFU prostate cancer surgery?

That’s right, before high intensity focused ultrasound (better and more easily known as HIFU) was legal in the United States, Charlotte’s very well-known Dr. Samuel Peretsman traveled outside the country to help his Charlotte-based patients get this procedure done.

He provided this procedure for nearly ten years by traveling to meet his patients from Bermuda to Mexico to the Bahamas. While he did so, the United States held off on legalizing this treatment, waiting to see its results in the more than forty other countries that had already approved HIFU for cancer treatment.

However, in October 2015, HIFU was approved by the FDA for use. Dr. Peretsman, a urologist in Charlotte, was among the first to perform the surgery on a prostate cancer patient in early December in the United States.

Let’s learn more about HIFU and Dr. Peretsman’s drive to make this treatment available to his patients.

What Exactly Is HIFU?

High-intensity focused ultrasound is a treatment that involves killing cancer cells by heating them to temperatures at which they cannot survive. It’s not exactly surgery and it doesn’t involve radiation. The HIFU beam specifically focuses on the cancer tissue and kills it without affecting areas outside the prostate and without causing damage to the healthy tissue of the prostate.

HIFU is a process that involves putting a transrectal probe up the rectum, from which the ultrasound waves can be aimed at the prostate. Your surgeon can see on a screen precisely where he or she is aiming the beam, which will be at the cancerous tissue. This treatment may be a good option for those who have a lower grade of prostate cancer and one that has not spread outside the prostate.

The Benefits of HIFU

The benefits of HIFU are among the reasons why many patients are interested in this procedure, even though it’s not covered by insurance yet since it’s so newly approved. There also isn’t much long-term data, but the results are looking promising for this form of treatment.

HIFU can be specifically aimed at the cancerous tissue, therefore allowing tissue that’s still healthy to remain largely unaffected. As a result of this, it doesn’t have the side effects that conventional surgery and radiation have. Two of these side effects include erectile dysfunction and incontinence, and they can be long-term depending on your particular diagnosis and procedure. HIFU aims to avoid these side effects and doesn’t involve cutting out portions of the prostate or affecting the nerves that control erections and the bladder.

Patients also tend to have a faster healing time than those who have prostate cancer surgery. HIFU is an outpatient procedure that usually only takes a couple hours, and then the patient is allowed to go home afterward. After HIFU treatment, active surveillance is an important part of ensuring the cancer doesn’t return.

Dr. Peretsman and Urology Specialists of the Carolinas

Charlotte has played an important role in advocating for the approval of HIFU for more than ten years. An HIFU device called Sonablate was made with the collaboration of Charlotte’s Steve Puckett Sr. from SonaCare Medical and an Indiana-based company. Together, they were able to start clinics to perform HIFU outside of the country. Formerly, patients could only get HIFU done in clinical trials in the United States, which SonaCare Medical paid for.

With the FDA’s approval, SonaCare Medical can’t specifically advertise that HIFU is for prostate cancer treatment, but surgeons are allowed to conduct HIFU treatments for prostate cancer. Sonablate is officially FDA-approved and devices are already being installed around the country. Charlotte urologists including Dr. Peretsman’s Urology Specialists of the Carolinas group own part of the HIFU FDA-approved device at a clinic in Huntersville, just north of Charlotte.

Dr. Peretsman learned about HIFU nearly ten years ago and learned the procedure so that he could better advise his patients about it. Many prostate cancer patients were traveling out of the country to have the procedure done, but upon returning home, couldn’t find doctors with enough knowledge about the procedure to have adequate follow-up care. Dr. Peretsman is now among the most skilled and knowledgeable doctors to perform HIFU, and will even conduct trainings for other doctors in the country on how to perform the procedure.

Although HIFU is a relatively new procedure, it could be a great option for your prostate cancer if it hasn’t spread and isn’t aggressive. Although you may consider waiting until it’s covered by insurance! Congratulations to Dr. Peretsman for being one of the first doctors in the United States to be an expert at HIFU and to pioneer the way for other doctors to perform the treatment.