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Saturday, January 19, 2008

They're printing money: HIFU prostate cancer care

Some weekends, more than a dozen American men wait at beachfront hotels, anxious for their turns in the treatment room at a small private hospital in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. They are medical tourists with prostate cancer, waiting for the latest therapy, high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU). It attacks the cancerous tissue by heating the prostate to temperatures near boiling, rather than using surgery or radiation.

But its long-term effects, and effectiveness, are unknown. And US HIFU, the company that promotes it, is attracting attention for its aggressive recruiting of doctors. "The people doing the treatments, they're just printing money," says Dr. Thomas Gardner. Though the urologist at Indiana University School of Medicine is enthusiastic about its potential, he adds, "Anytime anyone's printing money, doing what's right for the patient gets a little blurry."

"The US HIFU web site makes it all sound rosy; they give you none of the side effects and none of the bad results," said Fred Gillick, a Park Ridge, Illinois real estate executive who received the treatment in April 2006.

He says the procedure left him impotent and in need of a catheter at all times. Worse yet, the treatment did not eliminate his cancer. "Guys, there's a reason HIFU isn't approved here [in the U.S.]," he wrote.

Advice to men looking into prostate cancer treatment: Research all your options aggressively.

Browse for similar stories in our index at the very bottom of this page, or read a prostate cancer screening story.

Thanks to Stephanie Saul for the source story in the Jan. 18 issue of the NY Times.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that when no one knows the dangers and effects of a disease then the doctors will charge as their own wish. This is not a good practice at all. People should be made aware of the true realities and facts.