Treating Prostate Cancer with CyberKnife Technology: Fernando’s Story

According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in American men. Statistically speaking, about one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime.

Fernando Velasco is the one in eight. The 78-year-old Pflugerville, Texas resident was diagnosed with prostate cancer in February 2021.

Fernando is a tennis professional who makes his health and fitness a top priority. So each year, he makes sure to schedule his yearly check-ups with his primary care physician. Still, like many people last year, Fernando missed his appointment in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When Fernando went to his annual exam this year, his PCP was concerned by the recent rise in his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level. Fernando’s PSA had climbed from 2.50 to 4.29 between his last visits. Because of his recently elevated PSA level, Fernando decided to see his urologist.

“I play tennis and I am in good shape, but I have a history of prostate cancer in my family with my grandfather, father, and brother all having prostate cancer,” Fernando said. “Because of my family history, I religiously follow my PSA. In mid-February, I went and met with my urologist and he felt the numbers jumped a little too much, so he ordered a biopsy. I then had an MRI in March and a bone scan in April.”

Fernando’s biopsy came back positive for prostate cancer, but his MRI and bone scan were both clear. These results concluded the cancer was contained to his prostate and had not spread to other parts of his body. While he was happy about the good news about the clear scans, Fernando was eager to move forward to treating his prostate cancer in the fastest way possible. He wanted a treatment that was safe, effective, and worked with his busy schedule. He discussed his treatment options with his urologist and was referred to radiation oncologist, Shannon Cox, M.D., at Austin CyberKnife.

“Dr. Cox walked in the room with his mask on and his iPhone in his hand, playing a video about me and my life on the tennis court,” Fernando chuckled. “The doctor asked me if I was Fernando Velasco, the famous tennis player. We laughed together and I learned he was a big tennis fan. Before long, I was giving him tennis advice and he was giving me medical advice!”

While Fernando said he “immediately created a bond with Dr. Cox that he still has to this day,” he still did his homework.

“Dr. Cox made me feel warm and happy and I trusted him, but I still wanted to learn all I could about CyberKnife,” Fernando said. “I checked out the Austin CyberKnife website, read about the CyberKnife machine, and watched videos of other patients who had CyberKnife treatment. I liked that it was only going to be five treatment sessions and that it wasn’t going to interrupt my life and my tennis schedule.”

Fernando’s first CyberKnife treatment for his prostate cancer was on June 21. He said the entire process was pretty easy and was over in about an hour.

“I got a tour of the machine and watched how the robot would do the work,” Fernando said. “Since I was prepared and knew what to expect, it wasn’t bad at all. Once they laid me down and got me situated and comfortable, I listened to music and took a nap.”

Fernando had four more CyberKnife sessions and was done with treatment on June 30.

In addition to his treatments being effortless, Fernando said that Dr. Cox and the entire treatment team at Austin CyberKnife were friendly, professional, and great to work with. They were always concerned about how he was doing and became friends of his.

After treatments, Fernando said he felt fine and that the treatments did not interfere with his life or the sport he loves.

“My last treatment was on a Wednesday, and I was on the court playing tennis with Dr. Cox on Saturday,” said Fernando. “We were supposed to play on Thursday, but we got rained out, so we made up for it that weekend.”

Today, Fernando feels great and is enjoying life. He is happy with his decision to get CyberKnife treatment and wants others to know about this state-of-the-art technology. He recommends CyberKnife to anyone searching for treatment options for prostate cancer and shares his experience online through social media posts and pictures.

“It’s not about me, it’s about educating people,” Fernando said. “Get your PSA tests, do your homework, know your options. When I posted about my journey online, the posts exploded and I had friends that I haven’t seen in 20 or 30 years telling me about their prostate cancer experience and how they wish CyberKnife had been available for them. I think about what my grandfather, father, and brother went through and I just want people to get help and CyberKnife helps people.”