Puerto Vallarta, Mexico is home to the new and modern San Javier Hospital and the even newer Cornerstone Hospital, both of which provide just about every kind of medical service available anywhere in the world. A third hospital, AmeriMed has been in Vallarta about 10 years and it too offers numerous services. AmeriMed currently has another huge new hospital under construction that will rival the San Javier and Cornerstone Hospitals. As a note of interest, the Cornerstone Hospital is modeled after the Cornerstone Group of hospitals in Texas and AmeriMed is headquartered in Arizona.
While in the beautiful, spacious, and comfortable waiting lobby of San Javier a couple weeks ago, we met a group of doctors, nurses, and assistants from the US. They travel to PV on a monthly basis, spending three days at San Javier practicing a revolutionary prostate cancer treatment on a prescheduled group of men; many of which have unsuccessfully tried conventional options. This procedure is minimally invasive, non-surgical, non radiation, and virtually painless. These doctors and nurses split up into two teams and perform this state-of-the-art technique on two patients simultaneously, each procedure typically requiring three hours or less. This group of urologists and nurses, working in conjunction with a local urologist and local nurses, can treat as many as 20 patients in three days.
This leading edge technique incorporates high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) which is provided by means of a Sonablate 500 system. There are two of these state-of-the-art systems at San Javier, a HIFU Certified Specialty Hospital, each having a control console, a power generator, a cooling unit, and a probe that contains a standard imaging and high-intensity ultrasound treatment head.
Prior to this out-patient procedure, the patients are positioned on a standard operating table and given a spinal anesthesia. The ultrasound / imaging probe is then inserted into the rectum and a series of prostate gland images are viewed on the monitor, allowing the surgeon with a mouse, to select the precise treatment area. Next, by either manually adjusting the power or allowing the computer to determine optimum intensity and duration, the highly focused ultrasound waves create an extremely small and well defined zone of heat; similar to using a magnifying glass and allowing the sun's rays to produce a localized spot hot enough to burn a hole in a piece of paper. The pulsing ultrasound is applied with pin point accuracy in doses of less than a second each, generating temperatures in the range of 70-80°C (155-176°F). These warm temperatures are enough to thermally ablate the targeted tissues and because the targeted zone is so well defined, the adjacent tissues remain cool and uninjured.
The success rate for becoming cancer-free is similar to surgical removal and radiation; however, the complication rate with HIFU tends to be lower, especially the rates of incontinence and impotence. The cost for this revolutionary treatment package which includes flight, limo to and from the airport, and shuttle to and from the hospital, is roughly $25,000, which must seem very reasonable after all other options have failed.
The HIFU treatment is approved in Europe, Japan, China, Latin America, Caribbean, and Mexico, but has not yet received FDA approval in the US. Of all the HIFU approved doctors and hospitals in the world, these American urologists have joined up with a renowned and respected local urologist at San Javier to do their work. Not only are the hospital facilities top notch, but the attention and service that the visiting doctors, nurses, and patients receive is first class. Aside from being the most convenient location, it was also very evident that the surgeons and assistants really enjoy visiting PV and generally try to extend their stays as long as practical. We wouldn't be a bit surprised if one or more of the doctors eventually moves to Vallarta and practices this revolutionary prostate cancer treatment here on a daily basis until it's approved in the US. At that time, they'll probably be ready for retirement, and what better retirement haven to remain in than Puerto Vallarta?
Along with meeting the doctors and nurses, we also had the opportunity to visit with some of the patients prior to being treated and with their wives while they were being treated. Naturally, the men were nervous, anxious, and preoccupied; however they, and especially their wives, had many favorable comments regarding Vallarta. They all seemed quite shocked as to the growth of Vallarta and all the modern conveniences it has to offer. They praised the city's cleanliness, the great hotel accommodations and food, the fact that they could communicate with just about everyone they had come in contact with, and of course, the beautiful scenery and perfect climate. They all said that they looked forward to returning to PV under better circumstances when they could rest, relax, and enjoy themselves.
It was nice hearing these men express their admiration of our Paradise south of the border; however our greatest pleasure was seeing them walk out of the hospital after treatment, appearing as though nothing had been done and hopefully prostate cancer-free!