Frequently Asked Questions

When reading the information below, please note that it is provided for general information purposes only and should not replace the advice of your doctor. Always discuss treatment options, risks, and outcomes with your physician.

FAQs – Prostate Cancer

What is the prostate?

The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system that is about the same size and shape as a walnut in a healthy individual. It sits in front of the rectum just below the bladder and has the urethra running through its center. It helps in the production of seminal fluid. Its position in the body means that individuals with enlarged or diseased prostate glands often suffer from urinary tract complaints.

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is cancer that originates in the prostate gland. The American Cancer Society indicates that it is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in male patients. Around 200,000 new cases are diagnosed in the United States each year. In early stages, most prostate cancers grow slowly. When localized within the prostate gland, prostate cancer has several viable treatment options.

Where does prostate cancer spread?

The spreading of cancer is known as metastasis, and is the cause of deaths from prostate glands. Cancer can spread outside of the prostate into the prostate capsule and fat cells around the prostate. This then can spread to the seminal vesicles and bladder. When the cancer spreads to the lymph nodes or bones, it can be life threatening.

Why should I have regular prostate checkups?

Early stage prostate cancer causes no symptoms, but is also the most treatable time in the cycle of the cancer. If you are over the age of 40 or 50, you should have regular prostate checks to give doctors the best chance of finding the cancer while it is still localized within the prostate gland. This makes treatment far more effective.

What treatment options for prostate cancer exist?

Your physician will discuss the various treatment options with you. Each one carries risks and benefits. You will need to weigh these when choosing the treatment for your unique case.

FAQs – HIFU and the Sonablate 500

Is HIFU a new treatment option?

HIFU research began at Indiana University in the 1950s. The first human prostate cancer study occurred in 1994 at the University of Vienna in Austria using the Sonablate 200, the predecessor to the Sonablate 500. This study, performed by Dr. Marberger and Dr. Madersbacher, tested 29 patients who were given prostatectomies after the treatment to inspect the results. The results showed that the treatment was effective and safe enough to be repeated. In 1995 another study showed that the entire gland could be destroyed without damage to the surrounding areas. Use of the Sonablate 200 began in 1999. The Sonablate 500 received the CE mark from Europe in 2001, the same year clinical studies began at Indiana University. Today, around 100 Sonablate HIFU centers operate on six continents, with over 250 surgeons using the Sonablate 500. Over 7,000 total procedures have been performed with the device.

Where can I find statistics about HIFU?

You can download the latest clinical reports from our clinical data page.

Does HIFU remove only the cancerous cells?

HIFU uses overlapping treatment zones to target the tissue in the entire prostate gland. This effectively heats and destroys the tumors and the rest of the gland. Currently, clinics in Europe are studying the use of HIFU for focal therapy, which targets just the tumors instead of the entire prostate gland.

How is the urethra protected during the treatment?

HIFU with the Sonablate 500 allows the physician to clearly see the tissue before and during treatment. The urethra, which runs through the prostate, is a different type of tissue, so it is marked and avoided during treatment. This helps maintain urinary function.

Where can I have HIFU?

The Sonablate 500 has not been approved for use in the United States. It is still in investigational stages, and the FDA has made no decision about its safety or effectiveness. Patients interested in treatment with the Sonablate 500 may travel to prostate cancer clinics in Canada, India, Mexico, the Caribbean, and parts of South America.

Is the procedure covered by my insurance?

Most US-based insurance providers do not provide coverage for the treatment, nor does Medicare, as it is not yet approved by the FDA. Some insurance companies may reimburse patients after the procedure, however. You will need to check with your provider for the necessary paperwork for reimbursement or payment, which may include an international claims form.

How long do I have to stay in the treatment location?

Plan to arrive a day before your treatment date. Most patients are able to return home one or two days after treatment. You may wish to stay several days to give yourself time to rest before and after your treatment.

How do I find out more or schedule a treatment?

To learn more about HIFU, talk to patients who have had the procedure, or find out where you can have it done, contact Dr. Bilowus.

FAQs – Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia

What Is BPH?

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) is a condition caused by the enlargement of the prostate gland. Men over the age of 50 commonly have this condition, and it is not dangerous. However, it can sometimes cause uncomfortable urinary symptoms.

Can HIFU be used to treat BPH?

HIFU is a minimally invasive treatment option for BPH. In areas outside of the US where the Sonablate 500 has been approved, it is often used to treat both BPH and prostate cancer. Most BPH cases take about an hour to treat with HIFU.