Cancer? Burn it out! The Romans used to do it.
And now, with a little high-tech help, doctors at University College Hospital in London are doing it.
They're using a light beam of ultrasound to heat up cancer cells in an area as big as a grain of rice to 80 degrees, which destroys them.
Why? Because by focussing on such a small area, they can cut down on damage to healthy tissues and so reduce side-effects.
And they're a big problem for the 37,000 men treated for prostate cancer every year.
Standard treatment - surgery or radiotherapy - leaves a lot on men with serious and embarrassing side effects:
- Up to 25 per cent are incontinent
- Up to 75 per cent can't get an erection
- Up to 10 per cent have problems like diarrhoea
- Only 50 per cent manage to avoid one of those three
But in a new trial, funded by the Medical Research Council, 12 months after treatment, none of the 41 men in the trial had incontinence of urine. And, just 1-in-10 suffered from poor erections. The majority of men (95 per cent) were also cancer-free after a year.
Men have a 9-in-10 chance of avoiding all three side-effects.
– Dr Hashim Ahmed
Were optimistic that men diagnosed with prostate cancer may soon be able to undergo a day case surgical procedure, which can be safely repeated once or twice, to treat their condition with very few side effects.
They'll need a bigger trial to prove that the ultrasound therapy is better than existing treatments, but it's promising.