The Value of Focused Ultrasound: Thomas’ Story
When Dr. Gluck told Thomas he had early-stage prostate cancer, all Thomas could hear was the word “cancer.” Cancer had taken his brother’s life, and he had been helping his wife fight the disease for years. As Thomas tells it, hearing his diagnosis meant “for a second my body just shut down. I couldn’t think straight; my thoughts were all over the place.”
When he got the news, however, he wasn’t alone. His wife, Andrea, was sitting next to him and quickly snapped him out of his trance. Brought back to his senses, Thomas listened carefully as Dr. Gluck explained the diagnosis and treatment options.
A veteran urologist, Dr. Gluck meticulously laid out a series of possible treatment options that Thomas could choose from including the pros and cons of chemotherapy and radiation, various invasive surgeries and other medications. All of these came with unpleasant side effects that could potentially plague him for months, if not years. Finally, the doctor mentioned something Thomas had never heard about before: high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU).
“I didn’t know what it was, but the more Dr. Gluck explained it, the more it appealed to me,” noted Thomas. As a unique cancer treatment, HIFU utilizes sound waves to remove cancerous prostate tissue. Having just been approved for use in the United States the previous year, use and general awareness of HIFU technology were still relatively low.
The only problem was that focused ultrasound wasn’t covered under insurance, so Thomas and his family would have to come up with the $25,000 cost of the procedure on their own. Thomas, Andrea and their family discussed the options and ultimately decided to proceed.
“For me,” says Thomas, “it was just a decision between a good quality of life versus $25,000. I was fortunate enough to have enough retirement savings to cover the expense, so for me, the choice was easy.”
When Thomas had his HIFU procedure, Dr. Gluck put him on anesthesia and finished the procedure in under an hour. Thomas was home later that night and well on his way to recovery as little by little he slowly rebuilt his strength. After only 5 weeks he was back on the basketball court refereeing games.
“I really feel blessed, not just because I had the HIFU treatment and was able to pay for it, but also because I was fortunate enough to catch my cancer early.” African American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer and die from the disease, which is why early screening for prostate cancer is so important.
“A lot of my African American friends are hesitant or embarrassed to get their prostate checked, and I think that needs to change.”
Thomas is eager to spread the word about HIFU therapy beyond his community. Earlier this year he flew to Washington D.C. to meet with his representatives and tell them he is living proof of the effectiveness of HIFU treatment. “I just want lawmakers to know that this treatment works and that it can make a big, even life-saving difference in people’s lives.”