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Do you believe in magic?

Written by James Combs

Dr. Jack Cassell does, thanks to a procedure that has revolutionized prostate cancer care.

Technically, Dr. Jack Cassell isn’t a magician, but he does utilize a medical breakthrough in treating prostate cancer that creates magical outcomes. 

His trick is to make localized prostate cancer permanently disappear without long-lasting, confidence-draining side effects like incontinence and impotence.  

In November 2017, Dr. Cassell, owner of Urology of Mount Dora, began offering high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) at Florida Hospital Waterman in Tavares for men with localized prostate cancer. The procedure, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in October 2015, offers the equivalent five-year survival rate achieved with traditional prostate surgery or radiation, according to a study of 625 prostate cancer patients conducted in the United Kingdom. 

“This procedure truly is magical in the miraculous way the treatment can be transmitted through tissue without harming anything but the targeted tissue,” he says. “If doctors would’ve told me 20 years ago that we’d be able to cure prostate cancer this way, I would not have believed them.” 

During the noninvasive procedure, Dr. Cassell obtains real-time, three-dimensional ultrasound images of the prostate and surrounding areas. From these images, he sends high-frequency ultrasound waves through the walls of the rectum with pinpoint accuracy, generating enough thermal energy to destroy cancerous cells. All of this is done without a single incision or blood loss. 

“With each burst of an ultrasound wave, we destroy tissue that is roughly the size of a grain of rice without damaging surrounding tissue and cells,” he says. “The ultrasound waves are atraumatic to anything other than the specifically targeted prostate tissue. Also, we can get within a millimeter of the little nerves that allow men to have an erection without damaging the nerves.”

As a result, the prostate, which is roughly the size of a walnut and sits between the bladder and penis, is kept intact. That’s significant because the 10-year survival rate for men with prostate cancer is 98 percent, according to the American Cancer Society. Therefore, selecting a treatment is as much about how the treatment affects quality of life as it is about survival. 

While traditional medical procedures like surgery and radiation are effective, treating the entire prostate can lead to risks of incontinence and erectile dysfunction. In fact, the Prostate Cancer Foundation found that 25 percent of men experience frequent leakage or no bladder control at six months after a prostatectomy. 

There is a trade-off: the cancer is gone, but so is a man’s self-esteem. Some end up having to wear adult diapers, while others suffer mentally from a loss of physical sexual ability. 

“You only have one body,” Dr. Cassell says. “Your lifestyle should be the most important thing to you. If having an erection and having the ability to hold your urine is important to you, then there’s no better investment that you could make than choosing a treatment that avoids the disastrous side effects of traditional prostate cancer treatment.” 

Bill Pelick, a Mount Dora resident and musician, desperately wanted to dodge drippy diapers and erectile dysfunction. After being diagnosed with a localized but aggressive form of prostate cancer in December 2016, he opted for HIFU. Dr. Cassell performed the procedure on a Tuesday. The following Sunday, Bill was back on stage playing guitar and bass. 

Since undergoing HIFU, Bill, 63, remains cancer-free and his parts are working fine. 

“The great thing about HIFU is that there’s no cutting involved,” he says. “I only had a little discomfort immediately after the procedure. There’s nothing that can take the place of feeling like a total man.” 

That’s a far better outcome than the one experienced by a close friend who underwent traditional prostate surgery. 

“He went through misery,” Bill says. “In fact, I had to drive him to the hospital because he could not pee. He had to get catheterized. I’ve had other friends who underwent surgery to have their prostates removed or underwent radiation. They see how well I did and tell me they should’ve had the HIFU done on them, too.”

Dr. Cassell has performed HIFU for nearly a decade. Before it became FDA-approved, he would accompany patients to the Bahamas, Mexico, and Dominican Republic and complete the procedure at local hospitals. 

“I would treat a man that morning and then go out to dinner with him that very night,” Dr. Cassell says. 

Today, he serves as a proctor for North Carolina-based HIFU Prostate Services, the leading provider of HIFU technology to physician practices in the United States. Teaching the technique to other urologists throughout Florida is a point of pride because he feels HIFU will become the standard of care for cancer that is confined to the prostate and has not spread. 

“It’s a real game-changer,” Dr. Cassell says. “And in addition to no incontinence or erectile dysfunction, patients enjoy little downtime and a faster return to normal activities. With surgery, my patients had to avoid vigorous exercise for four to six weeks and wear a catheter for 10 to 14 days.”

For prostate cancer patients, HIFU is a magical alternative.

About the author

James Combs

Akers Media Group's James Combs has been a staff writer for several local publications since August 2000. He has had the privilege of interviewing some of Lake County’s many fascinating residents—from innovative business owners to heroic war veterans—and bringing their stories to life. A resident of Lake County since 1986, James recently embarked on a journey to lead a healthier lifestyle. He has lost 60 pounds and walks nearly five miles a day. In his spare time, he enjoys target shooting, skeet shooting and watching his beloved Kentucky Wildcats!

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