Innovative research and advanced treatments

Benefit from the expertise of UCHealth physicians and researchers—some of the top specialists in the nation—who have extensive experience with all types of cancers. Throughout the UCHealth network of facilities you have access to highly trained medical professionals and experts who specialize in:

Blood cancer/blood and marrow transplant

blood cancer treatment

Blood cancers affect the blood, bone marrow, or the lymphatic system and include conditions such as leukemia, Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, myelodysplasia, and myeloma.

Today, the most specialized and focused care teams—like those found at University of Colorado Health facilities in Fort Collins, Greeley, Loveland, metro Denver, and Colorado Springs—can treat and even cure many of these diseases. However, the intensive treatment can severely damage the bone marrow. To restore normal blood production after large doses of chemotherapy or radiation, our UCHealth specialists use blood and marrow stem cell transplantation.

Comprehensive and personalized care

When you choose University of Colorado Health, you gain access to our integrated program for blood cancer and blood and marrow transplant, an approach you won’t usually find at other cancer centers. It means you receive personalized, coordinated, and comprehensive care—and you’re able to work with the same familiar and trustworthy team of experts for as long as your treatment lasts. In addition, you benefit from the safety and comfort of our special facilities designed to protect your weakened immune system.

Learn more about blood and marrow transplant in our online Health Library.

Team-based treatment
At UCHealth, the same caring team of doctors and support professionals from many fields-including our elite, Magnet-designated nursing staff-collaborate to develop the best plan of care for you, and they stay with you from your initial appointment through treatment and aftercare. You receive doctor-managed care that emphasizes wellness and healing for you as a whole person-our complementary and integrative medicine specialists incorporate diverse options into your treatment. Your expert medical team members may include:

  • Oncologists/hematologists
  • Hematopathologistsbone
  • Infectious disease specialists
  • Oncology and transplant fellows
  • Nurse practitioners (NPs)
  • Clinical coordinators
  • Clinical nurse specialists/educators
  • Blood/marrow transplant nursing staff
  • Charge nurses
  • Nurse managers
  • Dietitians
  • Psychologists
  • Pharmacists
  • Physical therapists
  • Social workers
  • Chaplains
  • Patient services coordinators
  • Care team assistants/schedulers
  • Certified nursing assistants/nurse interns
  • Medical assistants
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Things to consider before a transplant
The choice to undergo a blood or marrow stem cell transplant is a major decision often made under the pressure and crisis of severe illness. As you review your options, you must:

  • Understand complicated medical information
  • Handle mixed emotions about whether a suitable donor will be found
  • Consider the possibility of severe side effects and other transplant risks
  • Respond to the strain on your finances
  • Address the challenges of a long hospital stay, much of it in isolation

The transplant experience is often psychologically challenging. Still, many people achieve successful results and return to normal activities. One key to success is to learn as much as possible about the blood and marrow transplant process before making your decision.

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Blood and marrow transplant process

Evaluation for using the transplant approach includes:

  • Your age, general health, and medical condition
  • Your specific type of cancer
  • The availability of a tissue-matched donor (allogeneic transplants)

Finding donor stem cells

You and your siblings are tested to determine your tissue type or human leukocyte antigen (HLA) type.

  • You have about a one in four chance of having the same HLA type as your sibling.
  • Compatibility ensures that immune cells of you and your donor will recognize, not attack, each other.

Once a matched and healthy donor is found, he or she undergoes intensive testing for fitness, overall health, and to ensure there is no infectious disease. The donor is then treated with a drug that draws stem cells out of the bone marrow and into the bloodstream. Stem cells are recovered from the blood through a process called leukapheresis, which uses a device that removes necessary cells while returning red cells and plasma to the donor.

Conditioning therapy for allogeneic transplants

Conditioning therapy uses chemotherapy drugs and total body irradiation the week before transplant to:

  • Reduce a cancer recurrence by intensively treating the few remaining cancer cells
  • Limit the chance of graft-versus-host disease by inactivating your immune system

Stem cell infusion

In a process that lasts less than an hour and resembles a blood transfusion, donor stem cells are infused through one of your veins. Although you may not experience side effects from the infusion, you're monitored for signs of fever, chills, hives, drop in blood pressure, or shortness of breath. Side effects can generally be treated as the infusion process is completed.

While you recover in the hospital

You'll begin to feel the effects of intensive conditioning therapy and the decrease in bone marrow function by the second or third day after the transplant.

  • Because your immune system has been suppressed, your ability to fight infection is very low.
  • You will stay in our hospital unit equipped with special HEPA-filtered protections that limit your exposure to any type of infection.
  • You may be isolated at the hospital for approximately a month as the donor stem cells begin forming enough blood and immune cells to restore your immune system.
  • You also may receive red cell and platelet transfusions.
  • You will be carefully monitored to make sure your organs function normally.

Like most transplant patients, you may need nutritional support and-for allogeneic transplant patients-special drugs to treat any graft-versus-host disease.

Typically, you will be able to leave the hospital within three (autologous) to five (allogeneic) weeks after your transplant. You will be discharged when:

  • Your bone marrow produces a sufficient number of healthy red cells, white cells, and platelets.
  • You have no severe complications.
  • You have a sense of well-being; any mouth sores and diarrhea lessen or are gone.
  • You have a good appetite.
  • You have no fever or vomiting.

After transplant

After leaving the hospital, you'll recover at home and receive visits from your home care team. In addition, you'll go to the outpatient clinic for follow-up care every week for about three months. If all is going well after several more months, your venous catheter will be removed, and you'll have fewer follow-up visits.

If you received an allogeneic transplant, recovering normal blood cell levels and immune cell function typically takes at least six to 12 months. During that time:

  • You'll need to avoid contact with crowds and with children who have had recent immunizations with live viruses.
  • You may need to be re-immunized for certain diseases because your immunity from previous vaccinations may be reduced.
  • The radiation you received may lead to cataracts in your eyes, sterility in men, and premature menopause in women. Women may need estrogen and progesterone replacement therapy.
  • Radiation may decrease thyroid function, and you may require a thyroid hormone.
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Cancer staging and detection tests

Because no two people develop a blood cancer in the same way, we offer a wide array of resources for proper evaluation of your situation-and we use that information to create a personalized plan that fits your specific needs.

Once a cancer has been diagnosed, our specialists need to know where it may have spread. This is the "stage" of the cancer. The lower the number, the less it has spread. Knowing the stage allows your medical team to determine the best possible treatment plan for you.

Staging tests

Any combination of these tests and procedures may be used to find and classify (stage) cancer:

  • Biopsy — Removes cells or tissues for viewing under a microscope to check for signs of cancer
  • Blood test — Analyzes a sample of blood
  • Cytogenetic analysis — Examines the chromosomes of cells
  • Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) — Checks for chromosome abnormalities
  • Immunophenotyping — Finds out if blood cancer cells are B cells or T cells
  • Molecular testing (PCR) — Evaluates chromosomal abnormalities

Scans and procedures

Any combination of these scans and procedures may be used to find and classify (stage) cancer:

  • Bone marrow aspiration — Uses a special needle to take a sample of fluid and cells from the marrow-often of the hip bone
  • Bone marrow biopsy — Removes a very small amount of bone filled with marrow cells-often from the hip bone
  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap) — Removes and examines a small amount of the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord
  • CT scan (computed tomography) — Uses a type of X-ray to create detailed, highly accurate, cross-sectional images of the body
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) — Uses a magnetic field instead of X-rays to provide detailed images of body structures
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography) — Uses an injection of a short-lived radioactive substance to create detailed images of body structures that help identify cancer and areas of inflammation in different parts of the body
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Blood cancer treatments and therapies

Treatment for blood cancer varies greatly from person to person. Your medical team may use any combination of chemotherapy, drug therapy, bone and marrow transplants, radiation, or new targeted therapies to treat or control your cancer.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs that slow down, damage, or kill cancer cells. It may involve single drugs or combinations of drugs taken intravenously or by mouth. Chemotherapy is often taken in cycles lasting three or four weeks each. Your team may also prescribe drugs to reduce or eliminate chemotherapy's side effects.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy (radiotherapy) uses X-rays and other types of medical radiation aimed at specific parts of the body. The radiation kills cancer cells, prevents cancer cells from developing or recurring, and improves many of cancer's symptoms. For certain cancers, radiation therapy is combined with chemotherapy and called chemo-radiotherapy.

Targeted therapies

Single drugs or combinations of drugs taken through intravenous injections or as prescribed tablets/capsules help fight the cancer itself or the side effects from chemotherapy. Drugs may be taken in repeating patterns (cycles) that usually last three to four weeks. Anti-cancer drugs or other substances that directly interfere with cancer growth and progression at the molecular level may be taken-with few side effects-on their own or combined with standard chemotherapy. Many new targeted therapies, including vaccines and gene therapies, are currently in development.

Blood and marrow transplantation

Because intensive chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment can severely damage the bone marrow's ability to produce cells, stem cell transplantation helps restore normal blood production.

Platelet transfusion

Platelets are small cells that stick to the site of a blood vessel injury and seal it to stop bleeding. Apheresis is the process that removes platelets from a donor's blood by a machine that then returns plasma and other cells to the donor. People experiencing lymphoma often need an infusion of donor platelets.

Bisphosphonates

This class of drugs-including pamidronate and zoledronic acid-helps limit bone loss, bone thinning, and fractures, especially in people experiencing myeloma.

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Bone cancer

Primary bone cancer is rare—it accounts for just 0.2 percent of all cancers—and it affects roughly 2,400 people nationwide each year. Even so, receiving this diagnosis can be unsettling for you or a loved one. Bone cancers can touch anyone at any age. Among adults, chondrosarcoma and myeloma bone cancers are the most common types.

Individualized treatment plans to meet your needs

At our bone cancer care clinics in Fort Collins, metro Denver, and Colorado Springs, doctors and support professionals from many fields work together to develop the best plan of care for you, and they stay with you from your initial appointment through treatment and aftercare.

You receive doctor-managed care that emphasizes wellness and healing for you as a whole person. Our complementary and integrative medicine specialists, for example, incorporate options such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and exercise consultation into your treatment. Your expert medical team members may include:

  • Surgeon/musculoskeletal orthopedic oncologists
  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Pathologists
  • Radiologists
  • Interventional radiologists
  • Cytologist/geneticists
  • Oncology-certified nurses (OCN)

If you need surgery for your bone or soft tissue cancer, you will spend time and energy becoming mobile again. You’ll get help from a variety of UCHealth rehabilitation specialists, including:

  • Physiatrists/physical rehabilitation physicians
  • Physical therapists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Social workers
  • Psychologists
  • Psychiatrists

Because no two people develop bone cancer in the same way, we offer a wide array of resources for proper evaluation of your situation—and we use that information to create a personalized plan that fits your specific needs. Once a cancer has been diagnosed, our specialists need to know where it may have spread. This is the “stage” of the cancer. The lower the number, the less it has spread. Knowing the stage allows your medical team to determine the best possible treatment plan for you.

Any combination of these tests and procedures may be used to find and classify (stage) bone cancer:

Tests

  • Blood test – Analyzes a sample of blood to determine the level of an enzyme called alkaline phosphatase which can sometimes indicate the presence of a disease or tumor
  • Biopsy – Removes cells or tissues for viewing under a microscope to check for signs of cancer

Scans and procedures

  • Angiogram – Uses an injection of dye to outline blood vessels on an X-ray
  • Bone scan – Involves injection of a small amount of radioactive material into a blood vessel to create images of bones on a computer screen or on film
  • CT scan (computed tomography) – Uses a type of X-ray to create detailed, highly accurate, cross-sectional images of the body
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) – Uses a magnetic field instead of X-rays to provide detailed images of body structures
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography) – Uses an injection of a short-lived radioactive substance to create detailed images of body structures that help identify cancer and areas of inflammation in different parts of the body
  • X-ray – Uses a type of high-energy radiation to diagnose diseases by making pictures of the inside of the body that can show the location, size, and shape of a bone tumor

Treatments and therapies

Treatment for bone cancer varies greatly from person to person. Your medical team may use any combination of surgery, chemotherapy, embolization, radiation, or even new immunotherapies to treat or control your cancer.

Surgery

In general, surgery is the main treatment for primary bone cancer. Most of the time, surgery spares limbs. That means the tumor is removed and the bone is reinforced with metal plates, screws, cement, or donor bone (allograft). In more advanced cases or when treatment options are limited, an entire part of a limb is removed and replaced with a prosthesis.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy (radiotherapy) uses X-rays and other types of medical radiation aimed at specific parts of the body. The radiation kills cancer cells, prevents cancer cells from developing or recurring, and improves many of cancer’s symptoms. For certain cancers, radiation therapy is combined with chemotherapy and called chemo-radiotherapy.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs that slow down, damage, or kill cancer cells. It may involve single drugs or combinations of drugs taken intravenously or by mouth. Chemotherapy is often taken in cycles lasting three or four weeks each. Your team may also prescribe drugs to reduce or eliminate chemotherapy’s side effects.

Embolization

All tumors need a rich supply of blood to grow. Embolization closes one or more blood vessels that may be feeding a tumor. The goal is to shrink or slow the tumor’s growth. Embolization may be combined with chemotherapy.

Breast cancer

Breast cancer ranges from early/noninvasive to more aggressive types that can spread to other parts of the body. Typically found in women, breast cancer can also affect men, although at much lower rates. Breast Cancer treatment Denver

From first appointment through aftercare

At UCHealth, the same caring team of doctors and support professionals from many fields—including our elite, Magnet-designated nursing staff—work together to develop the best plan of care for you, and they stay with you from your initial appointment through treatment and aftercare.

At our breast cancer care facilities in Fort Collinsmetro Denver and Colorado Springs, you receive doctor-managed care that emphasizes wellness and healing for you as a whole person.

Our UCHealth complementary and integrative medicine specialists incorporate options such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and exercise consultation into your treatment.

In addition, our special breast cancer nurse navigator helps guide you through the entire process. Your expert medical team members may include:

  • Hereditary cancer specialists
  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Surgical oncologists
  • Pathologists
  • Plastic and reconstructive surgeons
  • Radiologists
  • Nurse practitioners (NPs)
  • Nurses or Registered Nurses (RNs)
  • Behavioral health professionals
  • Genetic counselors
  • Social workers
  • Mammography technologists
  • Physical therapists
  • Medical assistants
  • Care team assistants
  • Integrative medicine and complementary care therapists

Explore UCHealth breast health services, including digital screening mammography. You can learn more general information about breast cancer in our online health library.

Clinical trials

University of Colorado Health conducts hundreds of clinical trials of new cancer treatments or drugs through the University of Colorado Cancer Center (CU Cancer Center).

 

Advanced services and treatments

When you choose a UCHealth facility in Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, or metro Denver, you gain access to the most comprehensive and advanced breast cancer services in the region.

Our experts are known worldwide for cancer diagnosis and staging—the critical first steps for getting proper cancer care. You also benefit from:

  • Advanced technologies, including fast, highly accurate digital mammography for screening and the pinpoint precision of TomoTherapy® for treatment
  • Access to pioneers in breast reconstruction surgery, including the complex DIEP (deep inferior epigastric perforator) flap surgery, which uses tissue from the lower abdomen to reconstruct the breasts
  • Advanced medical oncology treatments, including drugs and vaccines available only through our involvement in research and clinical trials
  • Access to the Young Women’s Breast Cancer Translational Program (YWBCTP) that’s dedicated to the turning the latest scientific research into effective treatments for young women’s and pregnancy-related breast cancer
  • Walk-in screening mammography appointments
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Expert second opinions

Rely on UCHealth for expert second opinions on all aspects of breast cancer. In a single appointment on Tuesday mornings, you can meet with our team of radiologists, pathologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and surgical oncologists at our multidisciplinary breast cancer clinic—the only one of its kind west of Chicago.

If you live outside the Denver metro area, you can use our program offering Remote Second Opinions for Breast Cancer. Our Comprehensive Cancer Center—one of only 40 elite cancer centers in the United States designated by the National Cancer Institute—is known worldwide for exceptional breast cancer care and treatment.

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Staging and detection tests

Because no two people develop breast cancer in the same way, we offer a wide array of resources to properly evaluate your situation—and we use that information to create a personalized plan that fits your specific needs. Once a cancer has been diagnosed, our specialists need to know where it may have spread. This is the “stage” of the cancer. The lower the number, the less it has spread. Knowing the stage allows your medical team to determine the best possible treatment plan for you.

Any combination of these tests and procedures may help find and classify (stage) cancer:

  • Mammogram – Uses a form of X-ray to take a picture of breast tissue that is examined for abnormal areas; digital mammography is faster and uses less radiation than film mammography, and it records images directly to a computer, which means images can be stored and sent electronically so your entire care team can view them; digital mammograms are generally more effective at detecting cancer in younger women, women with dense breasts, and pre-menopausal women; 3-D mammography, available at UCHealth since 2012, creates three-dimensional images of the breast and helps find cancers that may be missed by other devices
  • Breast ultrasound – Uses sound waves to make an image of areas inside the body; shows whether a lump is solid or a fluid-filled cyst
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) – Uses a magnetic field instead of X-rays to provide detailed images of body structures; for women with high genetic risk of breast cancer, screening trials show that combining breast MRI with mammography is the most effective way to find breast tumors
  • Biopsy – Removes cells or tissues for viewing under a microscope to check for signs of cancer; types of biopsy used to diagnose breast issues include:
    • Fine needle aspiration (FNA) – Removes individual cells for viewing under a microscope; often, you receive the results for this test at UCHealth on the same day you visit our clinic
    • Core biopsy – Removes a tissue sample about the size of pencil lead; results typically take two to five days
    • Excisional biopsy – Removes a tissue sample from an area in question; results typically take five to seven days
  • Genetic test – Analyzes a sample of blood to help diagnose or treat a disease
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Treatments and therapies

Treatment for breast cancer varies greatly from person to person. Your medical team may use any combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy, or new immunotherapy therapy to treat or control your cancer.

Surgery

Surgery, performed by a surgical oncologist who specializes in removal of breast cancer through an operation, is often the initial treatment for breast cancer. A plastic surgeon may then perform breast cancer reconstructive surgery. Surgical options include:

  • Mastectomy – Removes one or both breasts
  • Partial mastectomy – Removes cancer from the breast without removing the entire breast; also called a lumpectomy
  • Sentinel node biopsy and axillary dissection – Uses an injectable dye during full or partial mastectomy to identify and remove lymph nodes where cancer is most likely to have spread; axillary dissection removes most under-arm lymph nodes; our laboratory tests the tissue or nodes for cancer cells
  • Reconstructive surgery – Rebuilds the shape of the breast after mastectomy; may be done during mastectomy or later, depending on your needs and your doctor’s recommendation
  • DIEP flap reconstructive surgery – Uses fat and skin from your lower abdomen to create a new breast mound after a mastectomy

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs that slow down, damage, or kill cancer cells. It may involve single drugs or combinations of drugs taken intravenously or by mouth. Chemotherapy is often taken in cycles lasting three or four weeks each. Your team may also prescribe drugs to reduce or eliminate chemotherapy’s side effects.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy (radiotherapy) uses X-rays and other types of medical radiation aimed at specific parts of the body. The radiation kills cancer cells, prevents cancer cells from developing or recurring, and improves many of cancer’s symptoms. For certain cancers, radiation therapy is combined with chemotherapy and called chemo-radiotherapy.

Hormone Therapy

Because the presence of some hormones can cause certain cancers to grow, hormone therapy as a cancer treatment removes hormones or blocks their action to stop cancer cells from growing. Medications prescribed to block production or binding of estrogen as a treatment for breast cancer include:

  • Tamoxifen™ – Used to prevent breast cancer from returning in women who have had treatment and show no sign of remaining cancer (remission) and to help women at high risk avoid developing breast cancer
  • Aromatase inhibitors – Used to interfere with the amount of estrogen produced after menopause; limits the amount of estrogen that can cause breast cancer tumor growth
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Digestive/gastrointestinal cancer

A diagnosis of gastrointestinal cancer is unsettling news for anyone. Know that a team of specialists at UCHealth understand your fears and will develop a customized treatment plan to help you fight it.

Gastrointestinal tumor program

UCHealth facilities in Fort Collins, metro Denver, and Colorado Springs provide advanced care for anyone diagnosed with gastrointestinal cancer. We’re recognized as a center for developing and setting new standards in the treatment of gastrointestinal and related cancers.

We’re also noted for providing expert second opinions on all aspects of gastrointestinal cancer care—including our special program offering remote second opinions for gastrointestinal oncology. UCHealth specializes in a wide variety of cancers of the digestive system, including:

  • Anal cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Extrahepatic bile duct cancer
  • Gastrointestinal tumors (carcinoid, stromal)
  • Liver cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Small intestine cancer
  • Stomach cancer

Advanced treatment, caring approach

At UCHealth, the same caring team of doctors and support professionals from many fields—including our elite, Magnet-designated nursing staff—collaborate to develop the best plan of care for you, and they stay with you from your initial appointment through treatment and aftercare.

You receive doctor-managed care that emphasizes wellness and healing for you as a whole person—our complementary and integrative medicine specialists incorporate options such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and exercise consultation into your treatment. Our special GI nurse navigator helps guide you through the entire process. Your core team members may include:

  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Surgical oncologists

Additional UCHealth medical professionals who contribute their expertise to your care may include:

  • Gastroenterologists
  • Liver transplant specialists
  • Pathologists
  • Radiologists
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Oncology social workers
  • Integrative medicine and complementary care therapists

>> Download our program brochure (PDF).

Clinical trials

Your medical team may also recommend participation in a clinical trial. University of Colorado Health conducts hundreds of these “trials” of new treatments or drugs. Participation in a clinical trial may provide those who qualify with access to drugs and vaccines years before they are widely available.

Diagnostic staging and tests

Once a cancer has been diagnosed, our specialists need to know where it may have spread. This is the “stage” of the cancer. The lower the number, the less it has spread. Knowing the stage allows your medical team to determine the best possible treatment plan for you, including any of a variety of tests or procedures to find (diagnose) your specific condition.

Any combination of these tests and procedures may be used to find and classify (stage) gastrointestinal and digestive cancers:

Staging tests
  • Anoscopy – Uses a short, lighted tube called an anoscope to examine the anus and lower rectum.
  • Barium swallow – Uses X-rays of barium liquid you swallow to monitor flow through the esophagus and into the stomach to identify abnormal areas
  • Biopsy – Removes cells or tissues for viewing under a microscope to check for signs of cancer
  • Blood, urine and stool samples – Checks for bilirubin and other substances which, if elevated in the blood, stool, or urine, can indicate a tumor blocking the path from the liver to the gallbladder to the intestine
  • Chest X-ray – Creates an image on film or computer using an energy beam to examine organs and bones inside the chest
  • Colonoscopy – Uses a thin, lighted tube called a colonoscope to examine the inside of the rectum and colon for polyps and abnormal areas
  • Complete blood count (CBC) – Records the number of red and white blood cells, platelets, and hemoglobin in a sample of blood
  • Digital rectal exam – Uses manual insertion of a lubricated, gloved finger into the lower part of the rectum to feel for lumps or anything that seems unusual
  • Endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR) – Helps “stage” cancer tumors or may be used to remove certain tumors
  • Esophagoscopy – Uses a thin, lighted tube inserted through the mouth into the esophagus to look for and take samples of abnormal areas
  • Fecal occult blood test – Checks stool (solid waste) for blood that can only be seen with a microscope
  • Liver function tests – Checks a blood sample to measure amounts of certain substances released into the blood by the liver
  • Proctoscopy – Examines the rectum using a short, lighted tube called a proctoscope
  • Serum tumor marker test – Examines a blood sample to measure amounts of certain substances (tumor markers) released into the blood; increased levels can indicate cancer
  • Sigmoidoscopy – Examines the inside of the rectum and lower colon with a thin, lighted tube
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Scans and procedures
  • Barium enema (lower GI series) – Uses X-rays of barium liquid flow to check the rectum and colon for abnormalities
  • Bronchoscopy – Uses a thin, lighted tube called a bronchoscope to examine the lungs and take tissue samples for biopsy
  • Capsule endoscopy (pill endoscopy) – Uses a small pill that’s swallowed to help identify sources of internal bleeding that can’t be found in other ways
  • CT scan (computed tomography) – Creates detailed, highly accurate cross-sectional body images using a form of X-ray technology
  • Doppler ultrasound – Uses differences in the ultrasound echoes to measure the speed and direction of blood flow
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) – Uses a thin, lighted tube called an endoscope to examine the first part of the small intestine and determine if ducts are narrowed or blocked by a tumor or other condition
  • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) – Uses a thin, lighted tube called an endoscope to bounce high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) off internal tissues or organs and make images of body tissues (sonograms)
  • Laparoscopy/laparotomy – Uses a minimally invasive surgical procedure to look at organs inside the abdomen and check for signs of disease
  • Laryngoscopy – Uses a mirror or a thin, lighted tube called a laryngoscope to examine the larynx (voice box)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) – Uses a magnetic field instead of X-rays to create detailed images of body structures; helps measure changes in size of tumors or organs like the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography) – Uses an injection of a short-lived radioactive substance to create detailed images of body structures that highlight cancer and areas of inflammation in different parts of the body
  • Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC) – Uses an injection of dye into the liver to create images of the bile ducts on X-rays to determine if the ducts are narrowed or blocked by a tumor or other condition
  • Radionuclide scan – Uses small amounts of radioactivity and special cameras to locate gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors
  • Thoracoscopy – Uses a minimally invasive surgical procedure similar to laparoscopy to check for abnormalities of organs inside the chest
  • Virtual colonoscopy (colonography; CT colonography) – Uses CT scans to create detailed images inside of the colon to identify anything unusual
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Treatments and therapies

Treatment for gastrointestinal tumors varies greatly from person to person. Your medical team may use any combination of chemotherapy, drug therapy, blood and marrow transplants, radiation, or new targeted therapies to treat or control your cancer.

Surgery by cancer type
  • Anal cancer – Surgical options range from local excision to abdominoperineal resection and groin dissection
  • Colorectal cancer – Surgical options include cryosurgery, local excision, radiofrequency ablation, resection, or resection and colostomy
  • Esophagus/esophageal cancer – Surgical options range from local excision to complete abdominoperineal resection
  • Bile duct cancer – If the disease is caught early, surgeons can remove the bile duct and nearby lymph nodes; other options include partial hepatectomy, Whipple procedure, surgical biliary bypass, or placement of a stent
  • Gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors – Surgical options depend on the location and severity of gastrointestinal tumors and may include fulguration, artery ligation or embolization, radiofrequency ablation, appendectomy, partial hepatectomy, or bowel resection and anastomosis
  • Liver cancer – Options include chemoembolization, a percutaneous ethanol injection, regional chemotherapy, radiofrequency ablation, or partial or total hepatectomy with liver transplant
  • Pancreatic cancer – Surgical options include bypass, distal or total pancreatectomy, or placement of a stent
  • Small intestine cancer – Surgical options include bypass or resection of the small intestine
  • Stomach cancer – Surgery may include near-total or total gastrectomy, endoluminal stent placement, or electrocautery
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Surgical procedures
  • Abdominoperineal resection – Removes the anus, rectum, and part of the sigmoid colon through an incision made in the abdomen; end of the intestine is stitched to an opening made in the surface of the abdomen so body waste can be collected in a disposable colostomy bag outside the body
  • Appendectomy – Removes the appendix, sometimes laparascopically, using small incisions
  • Bile duct removal – Removes early-stage cancer tumors, bile duct, and nearby lymph nodes and reconstructs a new duct by sewing a piece of intestine to the liver
  • Bowel resection and anastomosis – Removes bowel tumor and a small section of surrounding healthy bowel, reconnects healthy bowel, removes and checks lymph nodes for cancer
  • Chemoembolization – Injects an anti-cancer drug into the hepatic artery through a thin tube called a catheter
  • Cryosurgery – Uses a specially designed instrument to freeze and destroy abnormal tissue
  • Electrocautery – Uses heat from an electrical current to remove lesions or control bleeding
  • Endoluminal stent placement – Inserts a thin, expandable tube called a stent to keep a passage open for nutrition
  • Esophagectomy, minimally invasive (MIE) – Uses tiny incisions and surgical instruments to remove esophageal tumors through the abdomen, chest, or neck; typically offers less pain and faster recovery
  • Fulguration – Uses a special tool that employs an electric current to burn away a tumor
  • Gastrectomy (near-total) – Removes cancerous part of the stomach, nearby lymph nodes, other tissues and organs—such as the spleen—near the tumor
  • Gastrectomy (total) – Removes entire stomach, nearby lymph nodes, parts of the esophagus, small intestines and other tissues—such as the spleen—near the tumor
  • Groin dissection – Removes cancerous lymph nodes in the groin if tumors are found after chemotherapy or radiation
  • Hepatectomy (partial) – Removes cancerous part of the liver, bile duct and lymph nodes near the tumor and reconstructs a new duct by sewing a piece of intestine to the liver
  • Hepatectomy and liver transplant – Removes and replaces entire liver with a donated healthy liver
  • Hepatic artery ligation or embolization – Blocks main vessel bringing blood into the liver to help kill cancer cells
  • Hepatic resection – Removes part or all of the liver
  • Local excision – Removes early-stage cancers without cutting into the abdomen
  • Pancreatectomy (distal) – Removes the pancreas body and tail if they contain tumors; may also remove the spleen
  • Pancreatectomy (total) – Removes entire pancreas, gallbladder, spleen, common bile duct, and parts of the stomach and small intestine
  • Percutaneous ethanol injection – Uses a small needle to inject ethanol (alcohol) directly into a tumor to kill cancer cells
  • Radiofrequency ablation (cryotherapy) – Uses a special probe with tiny electrodes that kill cancer cells
  • Regional chemotherapy – Places a small pump in the body to deliver anti-cancer drugs directly into blood vessels that go to the tumor
  • Resection – Surgically removes the cancer and a small amount of surrounding healthy tissue
  • Resection and colostomy – Creates an opening (stoma) on the outside of the body to pass waste if the colon and rectum cannot be reconnected; colostomy bag is placed around the stoma to collect waste on the outside of the body
  • Stent placement – Uses a thin tube called a stent in the duct to drain build-ups of bile
  • Surgical bypass – Creates a new pathway around a blocked area to let fluids pass through the digestive tract when a tumor cannot be removed
  • Whipple procedure – Removes the bile duct, the head of the pancreas, the gallbladder, and parts of the small intestine and stomach and reconstructs the digestive system so a regular diet may be eaten
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Nonsurgical procedures
Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs that slow down, damage, or kill cancer cells. It may involve single drugs or combinations of drugs taken intravenously or by mouth. Chemotherapy is often taken in cycles lasting three or four weeks each. Your team may also prescribe drugs to reduce or eliminate chemotherapy’s side effects.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy (radiotherapy) uses X-rays and other types of medical radiation aimed at specific parts of the body. The radiation kills cancer cells, prevents cancer cells from developing or recurring, and improves many of cancer’s symptoms. For certain cancers, radiation therapy is combined with chemotherapy and called chemo-radiotherapy.

Targeted Therapies

Anti-cancer drugs or other substances that directly interfere with cancer growth and progression at the molecular level may be taken—with few side effects—on their own or combined with standard chemotherapy. Many new targeted therapies, including vaccines and gene therapies, are currently in development.

MIBG (metaiodobenzylguanidine)

This drug therapy is sometimes used with or without radioactive iodine to lessen symptoms of gastrointestinal carcinoid tumors.

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Head and neck cancer

Head and neck cancers make up approximately six percent of all cancers in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, this means that as many as 39,000 men and women across the country develop head and neck cancer each year.

Of course, incidence numbers mean little to anyone who learns that they have a head and neck cancer. That kind of unsettling news is always personal. And our UCHealth specialists take a personal interest in developing a treatment plan for you.

Specialists in head & neck cancer

UCHealth facilities in Fort Collinsmetro Denver, and Colorado Springs specialize in treating cancers that begin in the oral cavity, salivary glands, paranasal sinuses, nasal cavity, pharynx, or larynx.

You can also find treatment at UCHealth for cancers that appear in lymph nodes of the upper neck, and we collaborate with our colleagues on the Head and Neck Tumor Board to review specific situations and develop the best next steps for people dealing with advanced thyroid cancer when standard treatments aren’t delivering desired results.

Unique multidisciplinary thyroid cancer program

In metro Denver you also have access to the Rocky Mountain region’s only multidisciplinary thyroid cancer program.

As someone experiencing an advanced or rare thyroid cancer, you’re evaluated jointly by our medical oncologists, endocrinologists, thyroid cancer surgeons, and radiation oncologists who work together to create a specialized care plan that fits your specific needs. In addition, you may be able to participate in clinical research studies of new chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Advanced treatment technology

When you choose UCHealth, you gain access to the most comprehensive and advanced radiation therapies in the Rocky Mountain region. Options may include IMRT—intensity modulated radiation therapy—an individualized, 3-D computer-based treatment that delivers high doses of radiation to precisely targeted tumors while sparing surrounding tissue. We also offer stereotactic radiation, which uses a highly focused beam directed toward a small, localized tumor, and if needed, we conduct re-irradiation procedures.

Your dedicated cancer team

At UCHealth, a caring team of doctors and support professionals from many fields—including our elite, Magnet-designated nursing staff—work together to develop the best plan of care for you, and they stay with you from your initial appointment through treatment and aftercare.

You receive doctor-managed care that emphasizes wellness and healing for you as a whole person—our complementary and integrative medicine specialists incorporate options such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and exercise consultation into your treatment. Your expert medical team members may include:

  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Head and neck cancer surgeons
  • Pathologists
  • Radiologists
  • Oncology nurses
  • Nutritionists
  • Social workers
  • Speech-language pathologists

Clinical trials

Your medical team may also recommend participation in a clinical trial. University of Colorado Health conducts hundreds of these “trials” of new treatments or drugs through our University of Colorado Cancer Center. Participation in a clinical trial may provide those who qualify with access to drugs and vaccines years before they are widely available.

Staging and detection tests

Because no two people develop head and neck cancer in the same way, we offer a wide array of resources for proper evaluation of your situation—and we use that information to create a personalized plan that fits your specific needs.

Once a cancer has been diagnosed, our specialists need to know where it may have spread. This is the “stage” of the cancer. The lower the number, the less it has spread. Knowing the stage allows your medical team to determine the best possible treatment plan for you.

Any combination of these tests and procedures may be used to find and classify (stage) head and neck cancers:

  • Barium swallow (upper GI series) – Uses a liquid containing barium to coat the lining of the esophagus and stomach so a series of diagnostic X-rays can be taken
  • Biopsy – Removes cells or tissues for viewing under a microscope to check for signs of cancer
  • Bronchoscopy – Uses a thin, lighted tube (bronchoscope) inserted into the trachea and lungs through the nose or mouth to check for abnormal areas or to take tissue samples for biopsy
  • CT scan (computed tomography) – Uses a type of X-ray to create detailed, highly accurate, cross-sectional images of the body
  • Endoscopy – Uses a thin, lighted tube (endoscope) inserted through a body opening or a small incision in the skin to examine internal organs and tissues for abnormalities; may also be used to take tissue samples or lymph nodes for biopsy
  • Esophagoscopy – Uses a thin, lighted tube (esophagoscope) inserted into the esophagus through the nose or mouth to check for abnormal areas or take tissue samples for biopsy
  • Exfoliative cytology – Uses a piece of cotton, a brush, or a small wooden stick to gently scrape cells from the lips, tongue, mouth, or throat to check for abnormalities by viewing under a microscope
  • Laryngoscopy – Uses a thin, lighted tube (laryngoscope) or a hand-held mirror to examine the voice box (larynx)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) – Uses a magnetic field instead of X-rays to provide detailed images of body structures
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography) – Uses an injection of a short-lived radioactive substance to create detailed images of body structures that help identify cancer and areas of inflammation in different parts of the body
  • Physical exam – Uses hands-on examination by a doctor to feel for swollen lymph nodes in the neck, look down the throat with a small, long-handled mirror, and check the lips and oral cavity for abnormal areas
  • Serum tumor marker test – Checks a blood sample for amounts of certain substances (tumor markers) released by organs, tissues, or tumor cells in the body that indicate specific types of cancer when found at increased levels
  • Ultrasound – Uses high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) to bounce off internal tissues or organs and make images of body tissues (sonogram)
  • X-ray – Uses a special type of energy beam to create images of the organs and bones inside body
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Treatments and therapies

Treatment for head and neck cancer varies greatly from person to person. Your medical team may use any combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, targeted therapy, or new immunotherapies to treat or control your cancer.

Surgery

Surgery may be part of an overall plan for treating a recurrence or new tumors. Specially trained head and neck surgical oncologists remove a tumor and some surrounding tissue, as well as some nearby lymph nodes. Your surgery may involve lasers for precise removal of cancer or precancerous growths or to relieve symptoms of cancer. Laser surgery is used most often to treat cancers on the surface of the body or in the lining of internal organs.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy (radiotherapy) uses X-rays and other types of medical radiation aimed at specific parts of the body. The radiation kills cancer cells, prevents cancer cells from developing or recurring, and improves many of cancer’s symptoms. For certain cancers, radiation therapy is combined with chemotherapy and called chemo-radiotherapy.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs that slow down, damage, or kill cancer cells. It may involve single drugs or combinations of drugs taken intravenously or by mouth. Chemotherapy is often taken in cycles lasting three or four weeks each. Your team may also prescribe drugs to reduce or eliminate chemotherapy’s side effects.

Anti-Cancer Drug Therapy

Single drugs or combinations of drugs taken through intravenous injections or as prescribed tablets/capsules help fight the cancer itself or side effects from chemotherapy. Drugs may be taken in repeating patterns (cycles) that usually last three to four weeks.

Targeted Therapy

Anti-cancer drugs or other substances that directly interfere with cancer growth and progression at the molecular level may be taken—with few side effects—on their own or combined with standard chemotherapy. Many new targeted therapies, including vaccines and gene therapies, are currently in development.

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Lung and thoracic cancer

Cancers of the lung and thoracic (chest) cavity involve many different organs and tissues beyond the lung. These cancers affect the esophagus, chest wall, and other glands and structures in the chest cavity between the lungs, except the heart.

At UCHealth locations in metro DenverFort Collins, and Colorado Springs, you’ll find a multidisciplinary team of world-renowned experts who treat the two main types of lung cancer:

  • Non-small cell lung cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma, large cell carcinoma, and adenocarcinoma
  • Small cell lung cancer

We also treat cancers of the respiratory system and organs in the thoracic cavity, including:

  • Malignant mesothelioma
  • Thymoma and thymic carcinoma
  • Small cell cancer in other body sites
  • Chest sarcomas
  • Pulmonary carcinoid tumors
  • Other rare thoracic cancers
  • Metastatic cancers that begin in other organs and spread to the lungs

Your dedicated cancer team

At UCHealth, the same caring team of doctors and support professionals from many fields work together to develop the best plan of care for you, and they stay with you from your initial appointment through treatment and aftercare.

You receive doctor-managed care that emphasizes wellness and healing for you as a whole person—our complementary and integrative medicine specialists incorporate options such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and exercise consultation into your treatment. Your expert medical team members may include:

  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Thoracic surgeons
  • Interventional pulmonologists
  • Pathologists
  • Radiologists
  • Geneticists
  • Nurses or Registered Nurses (RNs)
  • Nutritionists
  • Oncology social workers
  • Counselors
  • Integrative medicine and complementary care therapists

Advanced research and treatment

Significant breakthroughs in treating advanced lung cancer have resulted from creating a molecular profile of an individual’s cancer. With the profile, the most promising treatments—often within clinical trials—can be started as soon as possible. Our UCHealth lung cancer team creates a molecular profile of every person’s lung cancer, which means your treatment plan is tailored to meet your specific needs.

Get lung tumor testing at UCHealth with or without cancer consultation and learn more about genetic issues and clinical trials for the latest lung cancer treatments.

Expert second opinions

Rely on the nationally recognized lung cancer program at UCHealth for expert second opinions on all aspects of lung cancer and thoracic cancer care.

Our Comprehensive Cancer Center on the Anschutz Medical Campus—one of only 45 elite cancer centers in the United States designated by the National Cancer Institute—is known worldwide for developing and setting new standards in the treatment of lung and related cancers.

If traveling to Denver to see us is impractical, use our program offering Remote Second Opinions for Thoracic Oncology.

Learn more about lung cancer in our online health library.

UCHealth lung cancer experts in the news

Learn more about the UCHealth lung cancer experts and the promising results of our recent clinical trials

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Clinical forums with UCHealth lung specialists

Ross Camidge, MD – video presentations

Robert Doebele, MD – podcast

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Lung tumor testing and clinical trials

Get access to leading lung cancer treatments and advanced molecular tumor testing at UCHealth. We offer some of the most sophisticated molecular tests and one of the broadest ranges of clinical trials for new treatments of lung cancer.

Screening for genetic issues

Advanced molecular testing screens tumors for genetic problems that can be targeted with specific drugs.

We offer participation in clinical trials, including experimental targeted lung cancer therapy for ALK-positive non-small cell lung cancer. Our affiliate, the University of Colorado Cancer Center, serves as the lead site for the nationwide Lung Cancer Mutation Consortium—a collaboration of 14 of the nation’s elite lung cancer programs—which offers free molecular tumor testing for certain subtypes of lung cancer.

As part of your physician visit, this testing helps match your specific type of lung cancer to the targeted treatment that best fits your situation.

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Tumor testing services

Choose UCHealth for lung tumor testing with or without cancer consultation, or get a second opinion from our cancer professionals.

  • Tumor testing with cancer consultation – At our Lung Cancer Clinic on the Anschutz Medical Campus, our expert lung cancer physicians guide you through your diagnosis and treatment options, including advanced tumor testing.
  • Tumor testing without cancer consultation – Advanced molecular testing through our UCHealth partner laboratory, Colorado Molecular Correlates (CMOCO), can determine if a lung tumor is positive for a variety of gene problems, including ALK (anaplastic lymphoma kinase).

Before sending your information to us:

  • Talk to your doctor about having your tumor tested at UCHealth
  • Consider that tumor testing does not include a detailed explanation of results; interpretation requires a visit with our lung cancer physicians
  • Contact your health insurer for information about whether tumor testing is covered by your policy
  • Be prepared to pay the costs for tumor testing that are not covered by insurance
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How to submit tumor specimens for testing without consultation

Call us at 720-848-0300 for a CMOCO lab request form between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Complete the form and send it with the following information:

  • Clinician/oncologist contact information – Name, phone number, fax number, NPI number
  • Patient billing information – Demographic information (only if self-pay) and insurance information, if your insurance will be billed for the test
  • Tumor specimen – Clearly identified tumor specimen fixed in buffered formalin and associated pathology report
    OR
  • Ten unstained slides with associated pathology report

NOTE: Decalcified specimens (bone biopsies) are not acceptable for FISH testing.

Mailing address

CMOCO Lab
University of Colorado School of Medicine
12801 E. 17th Avenue, Campus Box 8104
R1-South, L18-5101
Aurora, CO 80045

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Melanoma

Melanoma accounts for less than five percent of skin cancers, but it is the most serious form of the disease. Beginning in the pigment cells of the skin, typically in a mole, melanoma often spreads. However, it can be cured if diagnosed and treated when the tumor is thin and has not deeply invaded the skin.

Your dedicated cancer team

At UCHealth facilities in Fort CollinsDenver, and Colorado Springs, the same caring team of doctors and support professionals from many fields work together to develop the best plan of care for you, and they stay with you from your initial appointment through treatment and aftercare.

You receive doctor-managed care that emphasizes wellness and healing for you as a whole person—our complementary and integrative medicine specialists incorporate options such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and exercise consultation into your treatment. Your expert medical team members may include:

  • Dermatologists
  • Dermapathologists
  • Dermatologic surgeons
  • Medical oncologists
  • Oncology nurses
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Radiologists
  • Social workers
  • Surgical oncologists
  • Integrative medicine and complementary care therapists

Precision advanced treatment with Mohs surgery

Surgeons skilled in performing Mohs micrographic surgery practice at UCHealth. Mohs surgery is now recognized as the most precise method of removing skin cancer while sparing surrounding healthy tissue. In Mohs surgery, cancerous lesions are removed in very thin layers that are continuously examined under a microscope during the procedure to ensure that no cancer cells remain.

If you are at high risk for developing melanoma, you can receive a complete skin examination at our specialized Pigmented Lesions/Mole Mapping Clinic—the region’s only service for the dermoscopy procedure that takes just a few seconds to provide a clear and deep view into pigmented lesions.

Clinical trials

Your medical team may also recommend participation in a clinical trial. UCHealth conducts hundreds of these “trials” of new treatments or drugs. Participation in a clinical trial may provide those who qualify with access to drugs and vaccines years before they are widely available.

Staging and detection tests

Because no two people develop melanoma in the same way, we offer a wide array of resources for proper evaluation of your situation—and we use that information to create a personalized plan to fit your specific needs.

Once a cancer has been diagnosed, our specialists need to know where it may have spread. This is the “stage” of the cancer. The lower the number, the less it has spread. Knowing the stage allows your medical team to determine the best possible treatment plan for you.

Any combination of these tests and procedures may be used to find and classify (stage) melanoma:

  • Biopsy – Removes all or part of the abnormal-looking skin growth for viewing under a microscope by an expert skin pathologist to check for signs of cancer
  • CT scan (computed tomography) – Uses a type of X-ray to create detailed, highly accurate, cross-sectional images of the body
  • Dermoscopy – Uses a drop of mineral oil on the lesion to reduce light reflection, make the skin more translucent, and assist in viewing skin lesions to accurately distinguish between suspicious moles and other pigmented lesions
  • Epiluminescence microscopy – Allows viewing of a lesion down to the dermo-epidermal junction—the areas where melanomas usually develop—that’s not visible to the naked eye
  • Excisional biopsy – Uses a scalpel to remove the entire growth
  • Lymphoscintigraphy plus sentinel node biopsy – Uses an injection of a radioactive substance at the site of the tumor to identify the sentinel lymph node (first draining lymph node near a tumor) and other lymph nodes to remove and examine them for tumor cells
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) – Uses a magnetic field instead of X-rays to create detailed images of body structures and show the differences between normal and diseased tissues
  • Mole mapping – Uses a full-body photograph and digital analysis to identify mole locations and different features as a way to help determine which moles need to be removed; also used to detect new moles and subtle changes in existing moles between visits
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography) – Uses an injection of a short-lived radioactive substance to create detailed images of body structures that help identify cancer and areas of inflammation in different parts of the body; can be performed simultaneously with a CT scan on a special machine (PET/CT) to provide detailed information about the cancer’s exact location
  • Punch biopsy – Uses a special instrument called a punch to remove a circle of tissue from the abnormal-looking growth
  • Skin examination – Uses a visual check of the skin for bumps or spots that look abnormal in color, size, shape, or texture
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Treatments and therapies

Treatment for melanoma varies greatly from person to person. Your medical team may use any combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, targeted therapy, photodynamic therapy, or new immunotherapies to treat or control your cancer.

Surgery

Depending on location and severity of the skin cancer, surgery may take one of several forms for removing the tumor and some of the surrounding normal tissue to make sure all cancer cells are eliminated. Because cancer can spread through the lymphatic system, lymph nodes near the tumor also may be removed.

  • Cryosurgery – Uses a special instrument to freeze and destroy abnormal tissue; also called cryotherapy
  • Dermabrasion – Uses a rotating wheel or small particles to rub away skin cells on the top layer of skin
  • Electrodesiccation and curettage – Removes the tumor from the skin with a curette, a sharp, spoon-shaped tool; followed by treatment of the area with a pinpoint electric current to stop bleeding and destroy any cancer cells remaining around the edge of the tumor site
  • Laser surgery – Uses a laser—a narrow beam of intense light—as a knife to make bloodless cuts in tissue or to remove a surface lesion such as a tumor
  • Mohs micrographic surgery – Removes melanoma tumor in thin layers using a microscope during the procedure to examine each layer and edges of tumor to check for cancer cells with minimal effect on surrounding tissues; removal of layers continues until no more cancer cells are seen; effective in treating cancers of the face and other cosmetically sensitive areas and recurrent skin cancers
  • Shave excision – Uses a small blade to shave the abnormal area on the surface of the skin
  • Simple excision – Removes both the tumor and some surrounding normal skin

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs that slow down, damage, or kill cancer cells. It may involve single drugs or combinations of drugs taken intravenously or by mouth. Chemotherapy is often taken in cycles lasting three or four weeks each. Your team may also prescribe drugs to reduce or eliminate chemotherapy’s side effects.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy (radiotherapy) uses X-rays and other types of medical radiation aimed at specific parts of the body. The radiation kills cancer cells, prevents cancer cells from developing or recurring, and improves many of cancer’s symptoms. For certain cancers, radiation therapy is combined with chemotherapy and called chemo-radiotherapy.

Targeted Therapy

Anti-cancer drugs or other substances using small molecules to block cell-signaling pathways and directly interfere with cancer growth and progression may be taken—with few side effects—on their own or combined with standard chemotherapy. Single drugs or combinations of drugs taken through intravenous injections or as prescribed tablets/capsules help fight the cancer itself or the side effects from chemotherapy. Drugs may be taken in repeating patterns (cycles) that usually last three to four weeks. Many new targeted therapies, including vaccines and gene therapies, are currently in development.

Photodynamic Therapy

Treatment that uses a certain type of laser light and a drug sensitive to that light to kill cancer cells. To treat skin cancer, laser light is shined onto the skin to activate the drug. Photodynamic therapy causes little damage to healthy tissue.

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Ovarian, uterine, and gynecologic cancer

Gynecologic cancers begin in the female reproductive system or genitals. UCHealth provides advanced care for anyone diagnosed with gynecologic cancer. Long recognized as a center for developing and setting new standards in cancer treatment, UCHealth is also noted for providing expert second opinions on all aspects of gynecologic cancer care.

Specialists in gynecologic cancers

You can trust our UCHealth experts to deliver the latest in proven treatments and, just as importantly, provide you with the hope that helps you heal. Whenever possible, we offer fertility-sparing treatment.

Our specialists treat a wide variety gynecologic cancers, including:

  • Cervical cancer
  • Endometrial and uterine cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Vaginal cancer
  • Vulvar cancer

Your dedicated cancer team

At UCHealth facilities in metro Denver, Fort Collins, Loveland, and Colorado Springs, a caring team of doctors and support professionals from many fields work together to develop the best plan of care for you, and they stay with you from your initial appointment through treatment and aftercare.

You receive doctor-managed care that emphasizes wellness and healing for you as a whole person—our complementary and integrative medicine specialists incorporate options such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and exercise consultation into your treatment. Your expert medical team members may include:

  • Gynecologic oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Urologic oncologists
  • Oncology social worker
  • Nurses or Registered Nurses (RNs)
  • Nutritionists
  • Physician assistants (PAs)
  • Medical residents
  • Integrative medicine and complementary care therapists such as aromatherapists or a Chinese herbal pharmacist

Tests and treatments

Once a cancer has been diagnosed, our specialists need to know where it may have spread. This is the “stage” of the cancer. The lower the number, the less it has spread. Knowing the stage allows your medical team to determine the best possible treatment plan for you, including any of a variety of tests or procedures to find (diagnose) your specific condition.

Treatment for gynecologic cancers varies greatly from person to person. Your medical team may use any combination of therapies and treatments to properly evaluate your situation and create a personalized plan to fit your exact needs and preferences.

Detection

Any combination of these tests and procedures may be used to find and classify (stage) gynecologic cancers:

  • Biopsy – Removes tissue sample from the cervix for viewing under a microscope to check for signs of cancer after abnormal cells are found during screening tests; typically done in a doctor’s office when removing only a small amount of tissue
  • Colposcopy – Looks inside the vagina and cervix for abnormal areas; allows magnified views of the vagina and cervix to check for precancerous or cancerous changes and to guide biopsies of abnormal areas
  • Dilatation and curettage(D&C) – Removes tissue samples from the inner lining of the uterus and cervix; usually performed in an operating room while you’re under anesthesia
  • Endocervical curettage – Uses a narrow instrument to collect a small amount of tissue from the cervical canal; another type of biopsy
  • Endometrial biopsy – Removes tissue from the endometrium (inner lining of the uterus) by inserting a thin, flexible tube through the cervix and into the uterus; usually done in the doctor’s office, followed by a pathologist’s examination of tissue under a microscope to look for cancer cells
  • Pap smear(Pap test) – Uses a brush or small wooden stick to gently scrape cells from the cervix and vagina for viewing under a microscope to check for abnormalities
  • Pelvic exam – The doctor inserts one or two lubricated, gloved fingers of one hand into the vagina while the other hand is placed over the lower abdomen to feel the size, shape, and position of the uterus and ovaries. The doctor may also use an instrument called a speculum to check for signs of disease. After examining the vagina, a rectal exam may be done to check for indications or spread of cancer.
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Staging tests

Any combination of these tests and procedures may be used to find and classify (stage) gynecologic cancers:

Scans and imaging

  • Chest X-ray – Uses a special type of energy beam to create images of the organs and bones inside the chest
  • CT scan (computed tomography) – Uses a type of X-ray to create detailed, highly accurate, cross-sectional images of the body
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) – Uses a magnetic field instead of X-rays to provide detailed images of body structures
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography) – Uses an injection of a short-lived radioactive substance to create detailed images of body structures that help identify cancer and areas of inflammation in different parts of the body
  • Ultrasound exam – Uses high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) to bounce off internal tissues or organs and make images of body tissues (sonogram)

Other tests:

  • Blood chemistry studies – Uses a blood sample to measure amounts of certain substances released into the blood by organs and tissues in the body; higher or lower than normal amounts of a substance can be a sign of disease in the related organ or tissue
  • CA 125 assay – Measures amount of CA 125 substance released by cells into the bloodstream; increased CA 125 may sometimes signal cancer or other health conditions
  • Cystoscopy – Uses a cystoscope to check the bladder for abnormal areas; also may remove tissue samples for viewing under a microscope to check for signs of cancer
  • Pretreatment surgical staging – Used occasionally to find out how far a cancer has spread to assist in proper treatment
  • Proctoscopy – Uses a proctoscope—a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and viewing lens—to check the rectum for abnormalities; also may be used to remove tissue for viewing under a microscope to check for signs of disease
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Pituitary tumor

The pituitary gland is located in a bony indentation at the base of the brain just behind the eyes. The gland secretes hormones into the blood stream that stimulate the thyroid to control many important bodily functions. About seven percent of all brain tumors develop in the pituitary gland, amounting to about 1,300 diagnoses each year. Very few are fatal. But by overproducing hormones or blocking normal hormone production, pituitary tumors can create other problems, such as headaches, blurred vision, and—rarely—excessive urination and thirst. Often, however, they produce no symptoms.

Team-based treatment at UCHealth

At UCHealth locations in metro Denver,Fort Collins, Loveland, and Colorado Springs, a caring team of doctors and support professionals from many fields work together to develop the best plan of care for you, and they stay with you from your initial appointment through treatment and aftercare.

You receive doctor-managed care that emphasizes wellness and healing for you as a whole person—our complementary and integrative medicine specialists incorporate options such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and nutrition and exercise consultation into your treatment. Your expert medical team members may include:

  • Endocrinologists
  • Neuroradiologists
  • Neurosurgeons
  • Radiation oncologists

Advanced treatment technologies

When you choose UCHealth, you gain access to advanced endoscopic technology for pituitary surgery, as well as stereotactic radiosurgery to treat recurring tumors or to help those for whom traditional surgery is not an option.

Clinical trials

Your medical team may also recommend participation in a clinical trial. UCHealth conducts hundreds of these “trials” of new treatments or drugs. Participation in a clinical trial may provide those who qualify with access to drugs and vaccines years before they are widely available.

Staging and detection tests

Because no two people develop pituitary tumors in the same way, we offer a wide array of resources to properly evaluate your situation—and we use that information to create a personalized plan to fit your specific needs.

Once a cancer has been diagnosed, our specialists need to know where it may have spread. This is the “stage” of the cancer. The lower the number, the less it has spread. Knowing the stage allows your medical team to determine the best possible treatment plan for you.

Any combination of these tests and procedures may be used to find and classify (stage) pituitary tumors:

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) – Uses a magnetic field instead of X-rays to create detailed images of body structures and show the differences between normal and diseased tissues
  • Blood test – Analyzes a sample of blood to evaluate hormone levels
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Treatments and therapies

Treatment for pituitary tumors varies greatly from person to person. Your medical team may use any combination of therapies to treat or control your cancer, including:

  • Medication – Uses oral medication or injections to raise or lower hormone levels based on your pituitary tumor, the hormone imbalances it’s causing, and your specific needs
  • Surgery – Uses procedures performed by a specialized neurosurgeon when medication is not available or can’t be tolerated for treatment of a specific pituitary condition
  • Stereotactic radiation therapy (stereotactic radiosurgery) – Uses an external radiation procedure to precisely target and shrink pituitary tumors that can’t be completely removed by surgery; reduces radiation exposure to nearby brain tissue
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Prostate cancer

Second only to skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in American men—with about one in six receiving that diagnosis during his lifetime. More than 217,000 men in the United States are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, while more than two million American men with the diagnosis remain alive today.

Team-based treatment at UCHealth

At UCHealth locations in metro DenverFort Collins, and Colorado Springs, a caring team of doctors and support professionals from many fields work together to develop the best plan of care for you, and they stay with you from your initial appointment through treatment and aftercare.

You receive doctor-managed care that emphasizes wellness and healing for you as a whole person—our complementary and integrative medicine specialists incorporate options such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and exercise consultation into your treatment. Your expert medical team members may include:

  • Urologists
  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Pathologists
  • Clinical research coordinators (CRCs)
  • Nurse practitioners (NPs)
  • Nurses or Registered Nurses (RNs)
  • Nutritionists
  • Oncology social workers
  • Integrative medicine and complementary care therapists

Precision treatment with da Vinci® robotic-assisted surgery

When you choose UCHealth, you gain access to surgeons skilled in the precision technology of robotic-assisted surgery with the da Vinci® Si system.

This advanced technology enables our highly experienced physicians to perform minimally invasive procedures for prostate cancer using smaller incisions, more detailed images inside the body, and precise control of the instruments. In many cases this means you recover faster and your hospital stay is shorter.

Immunotherapy treatment with Provenge®

Additional advanced treatment options at UCHealth for prostate cancer include Provenge®, a therapy that trains the body’s immune system to attack prostate cancer cells. The treatment involves removing your white blood cells, mixing these cells with a drug designed to target cancer cells, and infusing you with the treated blood.

Provenge is an FDA-approved therapy for men who have advanced prostate cancer that isn’t responding to hormonal therapies. Our University of Colorado Cancer Center participated in the original clinical trial for Provenge, so you can trust our extensive experience to deliver the best care for your specific situation.

Clinical trials

Your medical team may also recommend participation in a clinical trial. UCHealth conducts hundreds of these “trials” of new treatments or drugs. Participation in a clinical trial may provide those who qualify with access to drugs and vaccines years before they are widely available.

Staging and detection tests

Because no two people develop prostate cancer in the same way, we offer a wide array of resources for proper evaluation of your situation—and we use that information to create a personalized plan that fits your specific needs.

Once a cancer has been diagnosed, our specialists need to know where it may have spread. This is the “stage” of the cancer. The lower the number, the less it has spread. Knowing the stage allows your medical team to determine the best possible treatment plan for you.

Any combination of these tests and procedures may be used to find and classify (stage) prostate cancer:

  • Detailed 3-D staging biopsy – Maps each area of cancer to a 3-D model of the tissue to determine the precise size, extent, and location of the cancer
  • Bone scan – Takes pictures of the bones to look for areas of rapid growth that may indicate cancer
  • CT scan (computed tomography) – Uses a special type of X-ray and an injectable contrast dye to create detailed, highly accurate cross- sectional pictures of the prostate
  • ProstaScint scan – Uses a small amount of injectable radioactive material to prepare for images taken four days later that show any cancer cells present
  • Prostate biopsy – Removes a sample of prostate tissue for viewing under a microscope to look for cancer cells
  • Transrectal ultrasound (TRUS) – Uses sound waves to make an image of the prostate
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Treatments and therapies

Treatment for prostate cancer varies greatly from person to person. Your medical team may use any combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy, or immunotherapy to treat or control your cancer.

Surgery

Surgery is often the initial treatment for prostate cancer. Specially trained surgical oncologists remove the prostate and other affected tissues.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs that slow down, damage, or kill cancer cells. It may involve single drugs or combinations of drugs taken intravenously or by mouth. Chemotherapy is often taken in cycles lasting three or four weeks each. Your team may also prescribe drugs to reduce or eliminate chemotherapy’s side effects.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy (radiotherapy) uses X-rays and other types of medical radiation aimed at specific parts of the body. The radiation kills cancer cells, prevents cancer cells from developing or recurring, and improves many of cancer’s symptoms. For certain cancers, radiation therapy is combined with chemotherapy and called chemo-radiotherapy.

Anti-Cancer Drugs & Targeted Therapies

Single drugs or combinations of drugs taken through intravenous injections or as prescribed tablets/capsules help fight the cancer itself or the side effects from chemotherapy. Drugs may be taken in repeating patterns (cycles) that usually last three to four weeks.

  • Anti-cancer drugs or other substances that directly interfere with cancer growth and progression at the molecular level may be taken—with few side effects—on their own or combined with standard chemotherapy.
  • Targeted focal therapy (TFT) treats low-grade, early-stage prostate cancer with precisely targeted cryo-probes that kill cancer cells by freezing. The goal is to preserve urinary and erectile function with this minimally invasive procedure that typically lets you return home the same day.

Many new targeted therapies, including vaccines and gene therapies, are currently in development. When combined with radiation, targeted therapies can make surgery easier.

Hormonal Therapy

Because the presence of some hormones can cause certain cancers to grow, hormone therapy as a cancer treatment removes hormones or blocks their action to stop cancer cells from growing. If tests show that cancer cells can find places to attach (receptors), various treatments—drugs, surgery, radiation therapy—can be used to reduce hormone production or stop them from working.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy uses your own immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or in a laboratory—such as Provenge—are used to boost, direct, or restore the body’s natural defenses against cancer.

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Skin cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and it makes up more than half the total cancers diagnosed each year. That’s why the extensive experience and deep expertise you’ll find at UCHealth in treating skin cancer makes a significant difference in your positive outcome. We also treat melanoma, the cancer that forms in cells that make pigment.

Team-based treatment at UCHealth

At UCHealth facilities in metro DenverFort Collins, and Colorado Springs, a caring team of doctors and support professionals from many fields work together to develop the best plan of care for you, and they stay with you from your initial appointment through treatment and aftercare.

You receive doctor-managed care that emphasizes wellness and healing for you as a whole person—our complementary and integrative medicine specialists incorporate options such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and nutrition and exercise consultation into your treatment. Your expert medical team members may include:

  • Dermatologists
  • Dermapathologists
  • Dermatologic surgeons
  • Medical oncologists
  • Oncology nurses
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Radiologists
  • Social workers
  • Surgical oncologists
  • Integrative medicine and complementary care therapists

Precision advanced treatment with Mohs surgery

Surgeons skilled in Mohs micrographic surgery practice at UCHealth. Mohs surgery is now recognized as the most precise method of removing skin cancer while sparing surrounding healthy tissue. In Mohs surgery, cancerous lesions are removed in very thin layers that are continuously examined under a microscope during the procedure to ensure no cancer cells remain.

High-risk skin cancer program

If you are at high risk for developing skin cancer, UCHealth offers many specialized services for your care and treatment. Our multidisciplinary team provides exceptional care for organ transplant recipients and people with hereditary skin diseases that increase their risk for skin cancer. In addition, you may become one of the many people from around the world who choose UCHealth for our expertise in treating skin-based (cutaneous) lymphomas.

Clinical trials

Your medical team may also recommend participation in a clinical trial. UCHealth conducts hundreds of these “trials” of new treatments or drugs. Participation in a clinical trial may provide those who qualify with access to drugs and vaccines years before they are widely available.

Staging and detection tests

Because no two people develop skin cancer in the same way, we offer a wide array of resources for proper evaluation of your situation—and we use that information to create a personalized plan to fit your specific needs.

Once a cancer has been diagnosed, our specialists need to know where it may have spread. This is the “stage” of the cancer. The lower the number, the less it has spread. Knowing the stage allows your medical team to determine the best possible treatment plan for you.

Any combination of these tests and procedures may be used to find and classify (stage) skin cancer:

  • Biopsy – Removes all or part of the abnormal-looking skin growth for viewing under a microscope by an expert skin pathologist to check for signs of cancer
  • CT scan (computed tomography) – Uses a type of X-ray to create detailed, highly accurate, cross-sectional images of the body
  • Dermoscopy – Uses a drop of mineral oil on the lesion to reduce light reflection, make the skin more translucent, and assist in viewing skin lesions to accurately distinguish between suspicious moles and other pigmented lesions
  • Epiluminescence microscopy – Allows viewing of a lesion down to the dermo-epidermal junction—the areas where melanomas usually develop—that’s not visible to the naked eye
  • Excisional biopsy – Uses a scalpel to remove the entire growth
  • Mole mapping – Uses a full-body photograph and digital analysis to identify mole locations and different features as a way to help determine which moles need to be removed; also used to detect new moles and subtle changes in existing moles between visits
  • Punch biopsy – Uses a special instrument called a punch to remove a circle of tissue from the abnormal-looking growth
  • Skin examination – Uses a visual check of the skin for bumps or spots that look abnormal in color, size, shape, or texture
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Treatments and therapies

Treatment for skin cancer varies greatly from person to person. Your medical team may use any combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or new immunotherapies to treat or control your cancer.

Surgery

Depending on location and severity of the skin cancer, surgery may take one of several forms for removing the tumor and some of the surrounding normal tissue to make sure all cancer cells are eliminated. Because cancer can spread through the lymphatic system, lymph nodes near the tumor also may be removed.

  • Cryosurgery – Uses a special instrument to freeze and destroy abnormal tissue; also called cryotherapy
  • Dermabrasion – Uses a rotating wheel or small particles to rub away skin cells on the top layer of skin
  • Electrodesiccation and curettage – Removes the tumor from the skin with a curette, a sharp, spoon-shaped tool; followed by treatment of the area with a pinpoint electric current to stop bleeding and destroy any cancer cells remaining around the edge of the tumor site
  • Laser surgery – Uses a laser—a narrow beam of intense light—as a knife to make bloodless cuts in tissue or to remove a surface lesion such as a tumor
  • Mohs micrographic surgery – Removes melanoma tumor in thin layers using a microscope during the procedure to examine each layer and edges of tumor to check for cancer cells with minimal effect on surrounding tissues; removal of layers continues until no more cancer cells are seen; effective in treating cancers of the face and other cosmetically sensitive areas and recurrent skin cancers
  • Shave excision – Uses a small blade to shave the abnormal area on the surface of the skin
  • Simple excision – Removes both the tumor and some surrounding normal skin
Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs that slow down, damage, or kill cancer cells. It may involve single drugs or combinations of drugs taken intravenously or by mouth. Chemotherapy is often taken in cycles lasting three or four weeks each. Your team may also prescribe drugs to reduce or eliminate chemotherapy’s side effects.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy (radiotherapy) uses X-rays and other types of medical radiation aimed at specific parts of the body. The radiation kills cancer cells, prevents cancer cells from developing or recurring, and improves many of cancer’s symptoms. For certain cancers, radiation therapy is combined with chemotherapy and called chemo-radiotherapy.

Photodynamic Therapy

Treatment that uses a certain type of laser light and a drug sensitive to that light to kill cancer cells. To treat skin cancer, laser light is shined onto the skin to activate the drug. Photodynamic therapy causes little damage to healthy tissue.

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Thyroid cancer

One of the most survivable types of cancer, thyroid cancer forms in the thyroid gland, an organ at the base of the throat that affects heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and weight. People ages 20 to 55 account for nearly two of three occurrences. Because thyroid cancer can return, lifelong monitoring is needed.

Team-based treatment at UCHealth

At UCHealth facilities in DenverFort Collins, and Colorado Springs, the same caring team of doctors and support professionals from many fields work together to develop the best plan of care for you, and they stay with you from your initial appointment through treatment and aftercare.

You receive doctor-managed care that emphasizes wellness and healing for you as a whole person—our complementary and integrative medicine specialists incorporate options such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and exercise consultation into your treatment. In addition, our dedicated clinical care coordinator helps you find specialty care. Your expert medical team members may include:

  • Endocrinologists
  • Medical oncologists
  • Nutritionists
  • Oncology nurses
  • Pathologists
  • Patient care coordinators
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Radiologists
  • Speech-language pathologists
  • Social workers
  • Thyroid surgeons
  • Ultrasonographers

Multidisciplinary care for advanced or rare thyroid cancers

You benefit from the latest research, treatment, and support at the only multidisciplinary thyroid cancer clinic in the Rocky Mountain region. It’s all part of UCHealth’s Endocrine Neoplasms program offering nationally recognized experts skilled in sensitive ultrasound examination of the neck and biopsies of abnormal tissue.

As someone experiencing an advanced or rare thyroid cancer, you’re evaluated jointly by our medical oncologists, endocrinologists, thyroid cancer surgeons, and radiation oncologists who work together to create a specialized care plan that meets your specific needs.

Advanced research & treatment technology

Research conducted at UCHealth has played a role in the development of a more reliable test for thyroid cancer, known as the Afirma Gene Expression Classifier. Available from Veracyte since 2011, the test looks for hundreds of different indicators of cancer on the molecular level, rather than requiring surgery to determine if cancer is present.

When you choose UCHealth, you gain access to the most comprehensive and advanced radiation therapies in the Rocky Mountain region. Options may include IMRT—intensity modulated radiation therapy—an individualized, 3-D computer-based treatment that delivers high doses of radiation to precisely targeted tumors while sparing surrounding tissue. We also offer stereotactic radiation, which uses a highly focused beam directed toward a small, localized tumor, and, if needed, we conduct re-irradiation procedures.

Clinical trials

Your medical team may also recommend participation in a clinical trial. UCHealth conducts hundreds of these “trials” of new treatments or drugs. Participation in a clinical trial may provide those who qualify with access to drugs and vaccines years before they are widely available.

Staging and detection tests

Because no two people develop thyroid cancer in the same way, we offer a wide array of resources for proper evaluation of your situation—and we use that information to create a personalized plan that fits your specific needs.

Once a cancer has been diagnosed, our specialists need to know where it may have spread. This is the “stage” of the cancer. The lower the number, the less it has spread. Knowing the stage allows your medical team to determine the best possible treatment plan for you.

Any combination of these tests and procedures may be used to find and classify (stage) thyroid cancers:

  • Biopsy – Removes cells or tissues for viewing under a microscope to check for signs of cancer
  • Blood test – Analyzes a sample of blood to help diagnose or treat a disease
  • CT scan (computed tomography) – Uses a type of X-ray to create detailed, highly accurate, cross-sectional images of the body
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) – Uses a magnetic field instead of X-rays to provide detailed images of body structures
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography) – Uses an injection of a short-lived radioactive substance to create detailed images of body structures that help identify cancer and areas of inflammation in different parts of the body
  • Sensitive serum thyroglobulin testing – Assesses the level of thyroglobulin, which is made only by thyroid cells and thyroid cancer cells
  • Ultrasound – Uses high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) to bounce off internal tissues or organs and make images of body tissues (sonogram)
  • X-ray – Uses a special type of energy beam to create images of the organs and bones inside body

As an alternative to withdrawing from thyroid hormone for some necessary tests, we offer Thyrogen®, a recombinant human thyroid stimulating hormone.

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Treatments and therapies

Treatment for thyroid cancer varies greatly from person to person. Your medical team may use any combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or drug therapy to treat or control your cancer.

Surgery

Surgery is the most common treatment for thyroid cancer and may involve one of these procedures:

  • Lobectomy – Removes only the side of the thyroid where the cancer is found
  • Near-total thyroidectomy – Removes the entire thyroid except for one small part
  • Total thyroidectomy – Removes the entire thyroid
  • Lymph node dissection – Removes lymph nodes in the neck that contain cancer

Thyroid cancer surgeons at UCHealth are experts in the removal of recurrent cancer with alcohol ablation for those who have experienced multiple neck surgeries.

Typically, surgical removal of the thyroid is followed six to eight weeks later by treatment with radioactive iodine to kill any remaining cancer cells.

Radioactive Iodine Therapy

Radioactive iodine is administered orally in capsule form. When you receive this treatment, you’ll be placed in isolation either at the hospital or at home to reduce possible contamination of others. Our nuclear medicine specialists use their dosimetry expertise to calculate the doses of radioiodine that are most effective and safest for you.

Before you begin radioactive iodine therapy, you may need to stop taking your standard thyroid hormone for three to six weeks, so the radioactive iodine can work. During this period, you can expect to feel very tired, cold, and constipated, and you may have difficulty concentrating or controlling emotions. The day after you receive your radioactive iodine treatment, you’ll begin taking thyroid hormone again and should start to feel better in two to four weeks.

After your radioiodine treatment, you’ll receive a scan to determine whether you need more. Once treatment is complete, you’ll need lifelong hormone replacement therapy and evaluation.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs that slow down, damage, or kill cancer cells. It may involve single drugs or combinations of drugs taken intravenously or by mouth. Chemotherapy is often taken in cycles lasting three or four weeks each. Your team may also prescribe drugs to reduce or eliminate chemotherapy’s side effects.

External Beam Radiation

Radiation therapy (radiotherapy) uses high-energy rays focused on a specific area to eliminate cancer cells that could not be removed surgically or with radioiodine therapy. The radiation kills cancer cells, prevents cancer cells from developing or recurring, and improves many of cancer’s symptoms.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

If your thyroid gland is removed, hormone replacement therapy replicates important hormones that you no longer produce. You will need to take a hormone replacement pill daily for the rest of your life.

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TomoTherapy

TomoTherapy® is a form of external beam radiation used to treat a variety of cancers. Through UCHealth, you have access to the Rocky Mountain region’s TomoTherapy® Cancer Treatment Facility and the advanced TomoTherapy® Hi-Art® system, one of fewer than 150 in the world.

Advanced technology for precise radiation delivery

As a new way to deliver radiation treatment for cancer, TomoTherapy offers a very sophisticated form of intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) that combines treatment planning, CT scans for image-guided patient positioning, and radiation treatment into one integrated system.

By directing high doses of radiation to exact locations in shorter periods of time, TomoTherapy helps minimize effects on surrounding healthy tissue and reduces the length of your treatment cycle.

Adaptive technology adjusts to your progress

During your first short pass through the system each day of treatment, your doctors get new 3-D image scans that help identify the precise size, shape, and location of tumors.

Because your body and your tumors constantly change during the period of your radiation therapy, your doctors adapt and make adjustments just before you receive targeted treatment in the second pass through the TomoTherapy system. They customize the size, shape, and intensity of the radiation beam to match changes in your body and changes in the tumors every day. That reduces the exposure of healthy tissue to radiation.

Urologic cancer

Urologic cancers affect organs in the urinary and reproductive systems, including the bladder, kidneys, testicles, and prostate. UCHealth specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions. We provide comprehensive care—including screening tests and second opinion consultations—at locations across the Front Range.

Team-based and family-focused care

At UCHealth facilities in Fort Collinsmetro Denver, and Colorado Springs, a caring team of doctors and support professionals from many fields works together to develop the best plan of care for you, and they stay with you from your initial appointment through treatment and aftercare.

You receive doctor-managed care that emphasizes wellness and healing for you as a whole person—our complementary and integrative medicine specialists incorporate options such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and exercise consultation into your treatment. Your expert medical team members may include:

  • Urologists
  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Pathologists
  • Clinical research coordinators (CRCs)
  • Nurse practitioners (NPs)
  • Nurses or Registered Nurses (RNs)
  • Nutritionists
  • Oncology social workers
  • Integrative medicine and complementary care therapists

Precision treatment with da Vinci® robotic-assisted surgery

When you choose UCHealth, you gain access to surgeons skilled in the precision technology of robotic-assisted surgery with the da Vinci® Si system. This advanced technology enables our highly experienced physicians to perform minimally invasive procedures for urologic conditions using smaller incisions, more detailed images inside the body, and precise control of the instruments. For many patients, this means a faster recovery and a shorter hospital stay.

Clinical trials

Your medical team may also recommend participation in a clinical trial. UCHealth conducts hundreds of these “trials” of new treatments or drugs. Participation in a clinical trial may provide those who qualify with access to drugs and vaccines years before they are widely available.

Staging and detection tests

Because no two people develop a urologic cancer in the same way, we offer a wide array of resources for proper evaluation of your situation—and we use that information to create a personalized plan that fits your specific needs.

Once a cancer has been diagnosed, our specialists need to know where it may have spread. This is the “stage” of the cancer. The lower the number, the less it has spread. Knowing the stage allows your medical team to determine the best possible treatment plan for you.

Any combination of these tests and procedures may be used to find and classify (stage) urologic cancer:

  • Biopsy – Removes cells or tissues for viewing under a microscope to check for signs of cancer
  • Blood test – Analyzes a sample of blood to help diagnose or treat a disease
  • Bone scan – Involves injection of a small amount of radioactive material into a blood vessel to create images of bones on a computer screen or on film
  • Chest X-ray – Uses a type of high-energy radiation to diagnose diseases by making pictures of the inside of the body; shows if urologic cancer has spread to the lungs
  • CT scan (computed tomography) – Uses a type of X-ray to create detailed, highly accurate, cross-sectional images of the body
  • Cystoscope – Uses a small, lighted tube with a camera to look inside the bladder
  • Intravenous pyelogram (IVP) – Uses an injectable dye and an X-ray to help determine the cause of blood in the urine
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or NMRI (nuclear magnetic resonance imaging) – Uses a magnetic field instead of X-rays to provide detailed images of body structures
  • Physical examination – Helps doctors diagnose or find the cause of symptoms and provides a standard way of monitoring any change in function throughout treatment
  • Retrograde pyelography – Uses an injectable dye and an X-ray to follow the path of urine through the ureters from the kidneys to the bladder; similar to the IVP; makes the lining of the bladder, ureters and kidneys easier to see
  • Ultrasound – Uses sound waves to make an image of areas inside the body.
  • Urine culture – Tests a urine sample in a laboratory for the presence of infection-causing bacteria
  • Urine cytology – Examines a sample of urine under a microscope to look for cancerous or precancerous cells
  • X-ray – Uses a type of high-energy radiation to diagnose diseases by making pictures of the inside of the body that can show the location, size, and shape of a tumor and determine if urologic cancer has spread to the lungs or bones

Research at UCHealth also involves noninvasive ways to diagnose urologic cancer from urine, semen, and blood samples.

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Treatments and therapies

Treatment for urologic cancer varies greatly from person to person. Your medical team may use any combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, drug therapy, hormone therapy, or biotherapy (biologic therapy) to treat or control your cancer.

Surgery

Surgery is often the initial treatment for urologic cancer. Specially trained surgical oncologists remove the cancer mass and other affected areas using the minimally invasive precision technology of the robotic-assisted da Vinci® Si surgical system. You also have access to surgical advances that include nerve-sparing prostatectomy and cryosurgery, also known as targeted focal therapy (TFT).

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs that slow down, damage, or kill cancer cells. It may involve single drugs or combinations of drugs taken intravenously or by mouth. Chemotherapy is often taken in cycles lasting three or four weeks each. Your team may also prescribe drugs to reduce or eliminate chemotherapy’s side effects.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy (radiotherapy) uses X-rays and other types of medical radiation aimed at specific parts of the body. The radiation kills cancer cells, prevents cancer cells from developing or recurring, and improves many of cancer’s symptoms. For certain cancers, radiation therapy is combined with chemotherapy and called chemo-radiotherapy.

Anti-Cancer Drugs & Targeted Therapies

Single drugs or combinations of drugs taken through intravenous injections or as prescribed tablets/capsules help fight the cancer itself or the side effects from chemotherapy. Drugs may be taken in repeating patterns (cycles) that usually last three to four weeks. Anti-cancer drugs or other substances that directly interfere with cancer growth and progression at the molecular level may be taken—with few side effects—on their own or combined with standard chemotherapy. Many new targeted therapies, including vaccines and gene therapies, are currently in development.

Hormone Therapy

Because the presence of some hormones can cause certain cancers to grow, hormone therapy as a cancer treatment removes hormones or blocks their action to stop cancer cells from growing. If tests show that cancer cells can find places to attach (receptors), various treatments—drugs, surgery, radiation therapy—can be used to reduce hormone production or stop them from working.

Biologic Therapy/Immunotherapy

Biologic therapy, also known as immunotherapy, uses your own immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or in a laboratory—such as Provenge® or PSA Complex—are used to boost, direct, or restore the body’s natural defenses against cancer.

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Expert second opinions

Rely on the nationally recognized program at UCHealth for expert second opinions on all aspects of cancer care. We'd love to meet with you in person at the University of Colorado Cancer Center, but if travel to the Denver area is impractical, please consider our Remote Second Opinions program.

 

 

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