After more than 50 years as a NASA safety engineer, Victor Murray has learned to trust science. “My career requires me to find the answers to problems. I was part of the Apollo 13 fix. When something is wrong, there has to be a fix for it.”
So when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017 after a routine annual physical showed an elevated PSA*, he employed that same pragmatic approach to find the right treatment.
“My urologist talked about watchful waiting, radiation therapy, radical prostatectomy, and other options, but none of them seemed right for me.”
But then a friend at the gym told him about an ad he had seen for focused ultrasound therapy.
His urologist was hesitant about focused ultrasound, but Victor researched the treatment and sought a second opinion.
“I made an appointment with a renowned urologist and oncologist in my area. I found out he actually performed focused ultrasound treatments just down the street from me, and I was a good candidate for the procedure. It was the answer I was looking for.”
Victor’s treatment lasted just an hour and a half, and he returned home the same day. He experienced some catheter issues that resolved after 5 months. He has never experienced any pain or the incontinence or impotence that are often associated with traditional prostate surgery.
Now almost three years after the procedure, Victor’s PSA level has gone from 5.0 to 0.5, and his doctors are happy with the results.
While the focused ultrasound treatment was FDA approved in 2015, the procedure was not covered by Victor’s insurance. He was faced with a $25,000 bill, and the payment was due up-front, more than two weeks prior to treatment. Victor decided to pay out-of-pocket.**
“I was fortunate that I had that option, and I realize many men in my situation would not be able to do that.”
That is one of the reasons why Victor joined other patients, physicians, and advocates in February 2019 at the Capitol Hill fly-in, organized by the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA) with input from the Foundation.
“I learned that African-American men like me are more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as Caucasian men. Many don’t get treated, and sometimes that’s because of the cost or because they see it as a threat to their manhood, or whatever the case may be. I hope that my story inspires others to research their options and find a treatment that works for them.”
“If I had to do it again, I would. Focused ultrasound was the fix that I was looking for.”
*Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein produced by normal, as well as malignant, cells of the prostate gland. The blood level of PSA is often elevated in men with prostate cancer.
**In June 2019, the American Medical Association began the process of establishing a CPT code for HIFU, which means that insurance companies will be more likely to reimburse for the procedure, starting January 2021.