HIFU for prostate cancer

Peter, 71, from Brentwood was treated for prostate cancer at Spire Hartswood Hospital in Brentwood. Peter’s prostate cancer had been treated successfully using radiotherapy and hormone therapy back in 2001 before it returned in 2011. This is his story of a second chance.


Peter was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2001 after a routine check up at his GP surgery. He had no symptoms and had not suspected anything was wrong. Because of his age, his doctor had suggested having a routine Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test and the results showed a high level of PSA. In December 2001, after further PSA tests, ultrasound scans and a biopsy, Peter learned that he had prostate cancer.  

Peter received NHS radiotherapy treatment followed by a series of hormone injections and tablets which left Peter feeling tired. After months of constant treatment, in which he landscaped his entire back garden to help him cope with the situation, his treatment was complete. 

Peter told us...

"I had radiotherapy five days a week for nearly eight weeks and then tablets and injections of hormones to shrink and kill the aggressive prostate cancer. I didn’t want to have surgery because I felt the risks of surgery were too high. Nevertheless, my treatment, although not surgical, was not without side effects of night sweats and extreme tiredness. When we were told it was gone I was so relieved.

I continued to have regular PSA tests with Professor Barua every six months and gradually from 2002 it began to show results of a rising PSA. By the beginning of 2008 Professor Barua said he was convinced the cancer was back but the biopsies did not confirm this. I was put on surveillance and had another MRI scan in 2009. After a biopsy in 2011 I learned that I had prostate cancer again. 

After surviving cancer once, it was a real blow when it returned. This was not unexpected because they had been keeping an eye on me, but no less devastating to me and my family."

A second chance

“I learned that radiotherapy can ‘fuse’ the prostate to the bladder making subsequent removal very difficult without damaging the bladder and many men in my situation years ago would have had no other treatment available if the prostate cancer returned.Luckily, Professor Barua could offer me HIFU (High Intensity Focused Ultrasound) - which  could treat the prostate cancer regardless of the previous radiotherapy and hormone treatment. This meant that, unlike other men in my position years earlier, I had a second chance. I used my medical insurance to pay for private HIFU treatment at Spire Hartswood Hospital in Brentwood, Essex”

Private HIFU treatment

One week before his HIFU treatment, Peter went into Spire Hartswood Hospital for an assessment and was given sachets to drink which would help clear his bowels ready for treatment.

On the day of treatment Peter was shown to a private en-suite bedroom before being taken to the operating theatre where Professor Barua carried out the HIFU treatment. Peter explains: “The treatment lasted about three hours, during which I was asleep under general anaesthetic. My wife was able to wait for me in my room and nothing was too much trouble; we were very well looked after.

I would say that the treatment left me feeling uncomfortable and I went home with a catheter that was removed a week later. After three months I had a follow up appointment with Professor Barua which included a PSA test and MRI and everything seemed fine. This was confirmed at the latest follow up in March 2012.”

Prostate cancer - something to think about

“I feel that private medical insurance saved my life. I could have waited six months for an NHS appointment and it may have been too late. Another thing to think about is that I had no symptoms the first time around. I was a healthy 59 year old. Don’t wait for symptoms, if you are over 50 or have a family history of prostate cancer then ask your GP for a PSA test. If you do have symptoms please don’t ignore them until it is too late.

I have recently found out that a relative of mine has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, so if you know someone else who has symptoms, tell them to see their GP. You could save their life.

And finally, it’s important to stay positive and find out as much as you can about treatment options. When I was first diagnosed there was hardly any information out there but this time around there was so much more which was helpful to me and my family.

I was also lucky to have a consultant who specialised in prostate cancer and who could offer me a second chance. We are staying positive for the future and taking each day as it comes.”

The consultant's view - 

Professor Jayanta Barua, Consultant Urological Surgeon

"High intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) uses high frequency ultrasound energy to heat and destroy cancerous tissue in the prostate gland, with minimal damage on healthy surrounding tissue. During the procedure I use a probe to focus a high-intensity beam of ultrasound onto the prostate tissue, so that it heats and destroys it. The procedure usually takes about two to three hours to complete.

HIFU prostate treatment is generally considered to be a safe procedure and I am pleased to be able to offer it to carefully selected patients at Spire Hartswood Hospital. For most men, the benefits are much greater than any disadvantages of not being treated. However, all medical procedures carry an element of risk.

I am very pleased that Peter had a positive outcome from his 'second chance' or 'salvage' HIFU treatment. He was also delighted and appreciative of the professional and compassionate way that the team at Spire Hartswood looked after him at an emotionally difficult time.

Any advances in prostate cancer treatment that offer reduced side effects are positive news for patients and are to be welcomed. I strongly support further research into HIFU and other non-invasive treatments for this disease.”