Game Plan Against Cancer
Expert team at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital helps Rockville dad battle prostate cancer
For the past 18 years, Vaughn Clarke of Rockville diligently got his annual physical and prostate screening every spring. Clarke, a health-conscious former athlete, began getting annual prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screenings at age 40, after he lost his father to prostate cancer. For almost two decades, his tests came back normal.
Then, in 2010, a required physical before wrist surgery left him stunned.
The physical showed that Clarke’s PSA reading was abnormal. He quickly met with Barry Aron, M.D., chair of urology at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital.
Dr. Aron retested Clarke’s PSA, which again came back abnormal. Clarke then underwent several other tests including a digital rectal exam. He also had six biopsies of his prostate; all came back positive for cancer.
Needing to Know
Following his diagnosis, Clarke had many questions and concerns and did not want to spend the weekend with them unanswered. Dr. Aron came in on a Friday, his day off, to meet with Clarke.
“As a physician, it is important for me to sit down with someone like Vaughn to decide together how to move on with further screenings,” Dr. Aron says. “After his biopsies came back positive, I talked with him about all of the potential risks, benefits and complications of his options.”
Says Clarke: “The day Dr. Aron revealed the results to me, I had an out-of-body experience. It was so daunting, because now all of a sudden I had to actually face my own mortality. Dr Aron’s willingness to come in on his day off to answer my questions shows his personal commitment to my treatment.”
While Clarke had several treatment options to consider for his prostate cancer, Dr. Aron worked with him on a plan, which included a referral to Don Bridges, M.D., a radiation oncologist at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital. Dr. Bridges took the same approach as Dr. Aron—spending the time with Clarke to help him understand his treatment options, risks and benefits.
“My first inclination was to go the surgery route,” Clarke says. “Then I met with Dr. Bridges and he talked with me for over three hours. He wanted me to make sure that I knew all of the pluses and minuses to my options.”
Radiation’s Place in Treatment
As a member of Shady Grove Adventist Hospital’s expert cancer team, Dr. Bridges helped Clarke understand how radiation therapy would be used to treat his prostate cancer.
“Radiation therapy delivers high doses of radiation directly to the cancer cells, while sparing the surrounding healthy tissues,” Dr. Bridges says. “As part of a coordinated care team, I wanted to ensure that Vaughn was fully informed about the radiation treatment, in addition to other options, prior to making a decision about his treatment plan.”
After speaking with Drs. Bridges and Aron, Clarke decided to pursue an aggressive treatment option because of the aggressive nature of his cancer.
In March 2011, instead of getting his annual physical and screening, Clarke started his cancer treatment, which included hormone treatment followed by five weeks of radiation.
The final step in his treatment involved prostate seed implants in August. This state-of-the-art procedure deposits a high dose of radiation to the prostate gland over three months. At the end of his treatments, Clarke had his PSA retested. The results showed a drop in his PSA levels, which indicated that his treatment plan had worked.
“My quality of life is dramatically better because I just feel better about myself,” Clarke says. “Currently I am considered cancer-free, although I still have to monitor my PSA level. But I’m really well on my way, and that takes away not only the physical anxiety, but also the psychological and emotional anxiety.”
Protecting His Family, Too
Clarke has told his two sons that they will need to start getting tested for prostate cancer early. He is teaching them to be knowledgeable about their family history and to protect themselves.
“I’m very pleased that I received such good treatment and care from the team at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital,” Clarke says. “I am feeling wonderful these days.”
He has a message for men who are putting off regular doctor visits:
“I think most men don’t like to go to the doctor and don’t want to get their prostate screened,” he says, “but I want to tell them that it’s necessary to preserve your health.”
Put the Shady Grove Cancer Team in Your Corner
Visit www.yourcancerteam.com to watch videos of prostate cancer patient Vaughn Clarke and learn more about cancer care at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital.