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Prostate cancer survivor takes active role in his healthcare

Dan Fernandez, a prostate cancer survivor treated by Nikhil Shah, D.O., chief of minimal access and robotic surgery at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, was 51 when he learned he had prostate cancer following a yearly physical.

“When I received my blood work, I noticed that my PSA – which I’d been monitoring for years because my father is a prostate cancer survivor – was a 4, but the previous year it had only been a 1.6,” he says. “I spoke with my primary physician and explained that it was a 4. He told me that was within normal limits, but I knew the PSA velocity was abnormal.” Fernandez’s primary care physician referred him to an urologist to rule out a more serious condition.

“When I went in to see the urologist, he told me it was a possibility it was simply an infection, so he wanted to treat me for that. He treated me for about 60 days and during that time, my PSA indeed dropped to about 2.6, which gave me some form of false hope,” he says. “But very quickly thereafter, it jumped to about a 6. We recognized at that point that we were dealing with prostate cancer.”

Prostate Cancer and Robotic Surgery

“I decided to do a little research on the Internet and found that there was a new, but proven, treatment called robotic surgery using the da Vinci robot to do minimally invasive surgery. That evening after actually watching a video of that kind of surgery, I looked to see if there were any physicians in the Atlanta area who could do this kind of surgery and found there was one.”

Fernandez and his wife met with Dr. Shah to discuss his options. “We talked about my health in general, my wellbeing, nutrition, the amount of exercise I got.” Dr. Shah assured Fernandez that it did not matter whether he performed the surgery with a scalpel in his hands or with the use of the da Vinci robot – he was going to cure him.  

Fernandez says he and his wife left their meeting with Dr. Shah feeling positive about the outcome of the surgery. True to his word, Dr. Shah successfully removed Fernandez’s entire prostate and all of the cancerous tissue during the surgery. Though Fernandez still worries that the cancer could return, he takes a proactive approach to his healthcare by getting his PSA levels checked yearly.

These days, he focuses on spending time with his wife and two children, and perfecting his tennis game. Thanks to Fernandez’s vigilance about his PSA levels and Dr. Shah’s successful treatment, “Here we are four years later and I’m cancer-free.” For more information about prostate cancer and treatment options, visit the Piedmont Cancer Center.

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