High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) waves target cancer cells with precision in a one-to-four-hour procedure that has little or no side affects and a quick recovery rate, giving those diagnosed with prostate cancer another choice over surgery or radiation.
HIFU has been used in other countries for years, and Dr. Lazar has been instrumental in bringing this innovative treatment to the United States. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration last October, and he has since been performing the procedure at San Francisco Surgery Center for patients who travel from across the country to receive this leading edge treatment.
“The oncological results for HIFU are broadly comparable to radical surgery or radiation but the side effects are less,” says Dr. Lazar. “If the HIFU procedure is performed in the morning, a patient is typically up and around by dinnertime and can often return to normal activity within a few days without the use of pain-killers.”
Dr. Lazar has recently become involved with HIFU Prostate Services, LLC as their Medical Director. HIFU Prostate Services is the first company to establish centers in the United States offering Sonablate HIFU technology. HIFU Prostate Services makes the non-invasive treatment option available through partnerships with some of the largest urology practices and experienced physicians that establish Sonablate HIFU Centers of Excellence. Urologists are able to create their own HIFU program and offer treatment within their region. These centers also offer training and proctorship opportunities.
Along with serving as the Medical Director of HIFU Prostate Services, LLC. Dr. Lazar is also a clinical partner with his HIFU Center of Excellence at the state-of-the-art SFSC in downtown San Francisco. Dr. Lazar and his staff are proud to be early leaders in the usage of HIFU. He has worked tirelessly with SonaCare, the manufacturer of the instruments, to bring this innovative service for prostate cancer treatment to patients in the United States.
The HIFU technique is also being developed to treat many other types of cancer including breast, uterine, liver, kidney, and brain.
For those with prostate cancer, HIFU treatment is most effective for patients with early stage cancer, where it is localized to the prostate. It is performed on an out-patient basis that takes one to four hours. A urinary catheter is placed after the procedure for one to three weeks.
While some patients might experience slight irritation, “some patients can have a catheter and they don’t even know it.”
The procedure preserves healthy tissue and nerves, so urine flow and erectile function is maintained in a high percent of cases, as compared to radical surgery or radiation.
Another advantage is recovery time. With surgery or radiation treatment, recuperation time for patients is six to eight weeks, whereas HIFU patients return to normal activities within days.
Dr. Lazar has been treating U.S. prostate cancer patients in Mexico since 2007, where he performed hundreds of outpatient procedures at a U.S. Joint Commission approved bilingual hospital. There, he also served as a HIFU instructor for other physicians and is now training doctors in San Francisco.
Because the treatment is so new, it will take another couple of years before it will be routinely covered by insurance. Those with non-Medicare insurance may get reimbursed to varying degrees.
“What will really make this explode is when the insurance companies are routinely covering the procedure and it will become widely available to all patients. The costs for this procedure are drastically less than for radical surgical and radiation procedures, and with fewer complications so insurance companies will be incentivized to cover it,” Dr. Lazar commented.
As soon as more doctors are trained to perform the procedure in San Francisco, Dr. Lazar plans to bring the treatment to his Santa Rosa office.
“I expect as word gets out there will be a progressive demand for this procedure, so training physicians will be a high priority. It’s already expanding rapidly and we put in an order for our tenth machine,” said Dr. Lazar, adding he won’t be giving up his general urology practice any time soon. “This is what I love to do.”