Fighting Prostate Cancer with Sound

High Intensity Focused Ultrasound Gives Marina Del Rey Man New Tool for Fighting Prostate Cancer

Stephen Michaud enjoys watching – whether it's his grandkids on the baseball field or his favorite remodeling shows on HGTV. But there is one thing the Marina del Rey retiree did not want to watch: the growth of his prostate cancer tumor.

After being diagnosed with the disease earlier this year, Michaud chose not to engage in "watchful waiting" – or active surveillance – one of the traditional medical options offered to men with slow-growing prostate cancer. Nor did he want to take the more dramatic step of undergoing a radical prostatectomy or radiation treatments, the two standard procedures for prostate cancer that both come with potential side effects of incontinence and impotence.

Instead, Michaud opted for high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU), a minimally-invasive procedure that employs sound waves to ablate diseased tissue in the prostate. Michaud received the treatment at Santa Monica's John Wayne Cancer Institute (JWCI), the first medical center in the U.S. to acquire Focal One – the most advanced HIFU technology currently available.

This technology fuses high resolution magnetic resonance images (MRI) with biopsy results and real-time ultrasound imaging to let doctors view images of cancerous prostate tumors in 3D. The doctor can draw precise contours around the diseased tissue and direct the high intensity sound waves to destroy only that portion of the prostate. This further decreases the possibility of incontinence and erectile dysfunction.

Michaud was a candidate for focal HIFU therapy because his tumor was localized – meaning it had not breached the walls of the prostate. "My cancer was caught very early and the tumor was small," the 72-year-old Michaud said. "But I didn't want to see if it would get worse – and that's what we would have had to do with active surveillance."

"For my patients like Stephen, HIFU offers a middle ground," said Dr. Movassaghi, Michaud's urologist and Director of Men's Health at JWCI. "Focal therapy represents the perfect balance between active surveillance and radical treatments."

Spending time with the extended family, including his life partner Robyn and their combined nine children and nine grandchildren, is so important to him that Michaud keeps one home in Dana Point and another in Marina del Rey to minimize time spent on the freeway between visits to relatives.

Michaud spends much of his time remodeling his two homes – one in Dana Point and one in Marina Del Ray. "I do a lot of the remodeling myself but I hire contractors for the major work," he said. "And I like to get architects involved because they are experts and can really improve on good ideas. It seems like I'm always moving from one project to another!"

Besides remodeling houses and visiting family, Michaud has kept up a busy schedule of regular exercise and travel since he retired from his career as a management consultant with ten years ago. During his 32 years of management consulting, his work focused on technology, helping companies upgrade their infrastructure as part of large, organizational change management projects.

That background gave him an added appreciation for the sophisticated technology used in his focalized HIFU prostate procedure.

"One reason I chose HIFU is that it didn't involve surgery," Michaud observed. "No one would have to cut on me. The weirdest thing after HIFU was I thought, 'Did they do anything?' I felt nothing before or after."

Now that the procedure is behind him, Michaud is looking forward to more years of playing with the grandkids and watching them perform in sports, theatrical productions and competitive dance shows. "Being a grandparent is the best," he joked. "You get to do all the good stuff and then go home!"


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