Triangle Business Journal: WakeMed partnership expands new cancer treatment availability

A new partnership between WakeMed Health & Hospitals and Charlotte-based HIFU Prostate Services has expanded the availability of a recently approved and less invasive treatment for men with localized prostate cancer in the Triangle.

WakeMed Cary Hospital
WakeMed Cary Hospital

The treatment, called HIFU – high intensity focused ultrasound, is now offered at WakeMed Cary Hospital. As opposed to surgery or radiation treatment, HIFU uses sound waves and heat to destroy the cancer.

“HIFU has been around for a very long time, over 20 years, but the use with the prostate has become significant starting about 12 years ago,” says Dr. Frank Tortora, with Associated Urologists of North Carolina, who treated the first HIFU patient at WakeMed Cary on Oct. 18.

It was about two years ago, however, that HIFU was cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for ablation of the prostate. HIFU Prostate Services provides support and technology to patients and health care providers using the FDA approved Sonablate HIFU technology.

There are many cases of prostate cancers where physicians and patients have to weigh a cure with potentially life-changing downsides of surgery and radiation, says Tortora. HIFU provides some patients the less invasive opportunity to have cancer tissue destroyed and a “lifetime or long period of normal lifestyle.”

With more than 100,000 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed in the U.S. each year, approximately 30 percent of patients may be eligible for this new treatment, he notes.

But the treatment is costly – about $25,000. While all patients had previously been required to pay out of pocket, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a Medicare code earlier this year that may put the out-of-pocket costs for some patients at a significantly lower $9,000 to $12,000.

According to HIFU Prostate Services, it is in a dozen cities throughout the U.S. Aside from WakeMed Cary Hospital, its other treatment locations in North Carolina are Rex Surgery Center in Cary and Carolina Urology Partners Outpatient Facility in Huntersville.

Jennifer Henderson
Staff Writer
Triangle Business Journal

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