It’s Men’s Health Month: Be Your Own Advocate and Know Family History, Says Prostate Cancer Survivor
Tim McConnell has always been an advocate for his own health and knew he had a higher chance of developing Prostate cancer. His father had two prostate cancer surgeries in his life, but survived and lived to be 100 years old before dying from a cause other than prostate cancer.
But the experience with his father encouraged him to take care of his own prostate health.
“I am a real advocate of my own health,” he says. “I research everything.”
McConnell had a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test that came back high. Further Imaging and a biopsy confirmed the news he suspected: McConnell had prostate cancer, multiple spots on one side of his prostate.
He talked about all of his Treatment options for prostate cancer with Frye: a wait and see approach, a complete removal of his prostate through a procedure called prostatectomy, radiation therapy, and an option called HIFU or high-intensity focused ultrasound.
HIFU is not an option for all men with prostate cancer; it depends on the degree and localization of the cancer. But for those eligible, it’s a minimally invasive approach that aims to maximize the quality of life. Instead of removing the entire prostate, which can lead to side effects like incontinence and erectile dysfunction, HIFU uses ultrasound to fight the cancer on the prostate to remove the cancer but leave the organ itself intact. It is also an outpatient procedure and has minimal recovery time.
After McConnell discussed and researched all options with Frye, he decided on HIFU.
“There were many types of treatments, but I liked this procedure for how it worked,” he said. “It was the least invasive and the most purposeful. It was only aimed at the cancer and nothing else. “
Before going through the procedure, McConnell discussed the finances with the team. Unfortunately, HIFU is not yet covered by all insurances; Excellus is a major payer that does not yet cover HIFU. Frye and his team hope that will change soon, but in the meantime they have been playing through financial scenarios with him so that he knows the best and worst cases. Fortunately, he had the financially most favorable scenario.
He had the procedure in August 2020 and it went well. He recalls that it took about four hours even though he was under anesthesia.
“It wasn’t a painful procedure,” he says. “The good thing about this procedure is that the organ is there for a reason and is still intact. About 50% of them are still in use. That’s why I went with this one. “
McConnell returned home that afternoon. Recovery time was minimal. He’s retired, but soon he was able to do things he loved again: gardening around his house on Lake Canandaigua and helping a neighbor run a general store on the east side of the lake.
In his experience, he encourages other men to stand up for themselves, maintain a relationship with their family doctor, and get evaluated to see if they have a family history or some other increased risk of prostate cancer. Although his story ended well, he knows others who weren’t diagnosed as quickly and it made a difference.
“Don’t wait,” he says. “Don’t wait and be your own advocate on your path to prostate cancer.”
He adds, “It is so important when you are over 50 that you have good relationships with healthcare professionals. Be very open. A urologist is very personal. You can’t hide your symptoms or feel uncomfortable talking about them. Just be very open and honest about it. “