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Geetha Rao, M.D.

Routine test saved prostate cancer survivor’s life

Cliff Stern, a Piedmont Fayette Hospital patient, went for his yearly physical in June 2011. He had a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and his results were above 6.0. They had never been above 3.0 previously. Stern’s primary care physician referred him to a urologist for further evaluation.

That September, Stern learned he had an aggressive form of prostate cancer. His urologist then referred him to Geetha Rao, M.D., a radiation oncologist at Piedmont Fayette. “She explained the process to me, then I went back and did some research,” says Stern.

In his research, he learned about the latest, state-of-the-art radiation technology. He met with Dr. Rao again and learned Piedmont Fayette had that exact equipment.

Stern’s experience

Stern says Dr. Rao and her staff treated him like family, making a very difficult process much easier. “Her attitude is fabulous and the entire group around her reflects that same attitude. Every one of them is special. They make you feel like you’re the most important person there,” he says. “Of course, if you’re on the table, then I guess you are at that time,” he jokes.

Completing his treatment

Piedmont Fayette has a bell on the wall that patients ring when they complete their last radiation session. Stern says he noticed the bell every time he had an appointment, but didn’t think much of it. “I couldn’t believe when it came my turn how emotional that was,” he remembers. When Stern finished his last treatment, he waited for Dr. Rao to review his final scans with a radiologist. The scans showed that the cancer was gone.

In February 2012, a month after Stern completed traditional radiation therapy, he had had radioactive seeds implanted into his prostate gland. While the seed implants are permanent, they stop working after a few months.

Living cancer-free

As of September 2013, Stern is cancer-free. “I guess I’m a cancer survivor now,” he says. Because his cancer had no symptoms, Stern says he probably wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for his annual physical and PSA test. “I got the best care I could get,” he says. “I don’t trust any two people in the world more than I do my doctors. Dr. Rao is my hero.”

For more information on prostate cancer and treatment, visit Piedmont Cancer Center.

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