I was a bit discouraged about the cost of having a new, high resolution prostate MRI. $5000 is a lot of money, especially in the current economy where it could pay bills for a couple months, as layoffs are looming everywhere. There had to be something similar and less expensive in the Chicago area. With major universities like the University of Chicago, Northwestern, Loyola and the University of Illinois at Chicago, someone had to be doing it. That’s not even including the dozens of private hospitals and clinics in the area and other nearby universities like Iowa, Purdue, Wisconsin and Illinois. Still, I could find nothing on almost every kind of search I tried.
What I did find was research. Names and email addresses of urologists, radiologists and others who were doing work in prostate imaging. One of them might know someone else doing this kind of diagnostic for patients, maybe even in the Chicago area. I also contacted some local people who came up on a search of seminars in the local area, some through a great organization called UsToo. Still, nothing I could find anywhere in the midwest. The major institutions doing this type of research seem to be in Boston, New York City, San Fransisco, Houston and Maryland.
I was intrigued by the response from a researcher in Maryland. He referred me to his associate, a urologist. I had a discussion with the urologist’s scheduler recently. As a result, I now have an appointment to spend an extended weekend in Bethesda, Maryland. From what I understand, it is a good fit for me. On a Friday, I get a high resolution “3T” MRI scan, much the same as the one in Florida I mentioned in previous blogs. By Monday, I will have the results. If anything suspicious is found, I have a biopsy.
No, I haven’t changed my mind about the biopsy. There are a couple differences here, though. First, if they found something suspicious, it’s now a reasonable cause for me to have a biopsy and determine if it is cancer. A reasonable cause that I haven’t had so far. Second, they actually use the MRI results to guide the biopsy. First they do a typical biopsy as they would have done with no prior information. Then they take additional samples, targetted to the locations the MRI showed as being unusual. I gather the accuracy isn’t great, but it’s certainly no worse than a regular biopsy that I would now need anyway.
Okay, okay, there’s a third thing. It’s free. Well, maybe not free. I’m told travel is re-imbursed at a fixed rate, so I may not get back exactly what I spend. On the other hand, since I have no family in the area and would otherwise need a hotel, the research grant also pays for a room in their clinic hospital. From what I gather, the bulk of the cost is paid by you, the taxpayer. The National Institutes of Health are federally operated and apparently the costs for research projects are paid by the government. Sometimes, you have to hand it to the government. Not only are they allowing me to get a procedure I may not have been able to afford, but they are spending their money on worthy research that may someday reduce the number of unnecessary prostate biopsies!
The 3T MRI and followup in Florida is still appealing. The main problem is cost, most of which would probably not be reimbursed by my particular insurance plan. Plus, I’ve already spent $950 on an ultrasound that now seems at least a little questionable. I’m still waiting to hear back from some of the other institutions that do this type of imaging, but as of now, I plan to be in Washington D.C. in late February. There seems to be a lot of clout there from Illinois, now. Maybe I can get a tour!
I pray my good fortune holds for another month or two.