Cancer diagnostics vary and typically begin with a thorough personal and family medical history and physical examination followed by the appropriately prescribed diagnostic testing. Many tests are needed to determine whether a patient has cancer, or if another condition (such as an infection) is simulating the symptoms of cancer.
 
Effective diagnostic testing is used to confirm or eliminate the presence of disease, monitor the disease process, and plan for and evaluate the effectiveness of treatment. Diagnostic procedures may include imaging, laboratory tests, biopsy, surgery or genetic testing, or a combination of multiple methods.
 
Once a cancer diagnosis is determined, Shaw Regional Cancer Center's medical professionals specialize in finding the best cancer treatment options for each patient. Our care team recognizes that becoming a cancer survivor requires personalized cancer treatments based on the individual patient's needs. A cancer treatment that works for one person may not be appropriate for another.
 
Our team intimately engages with every patient to determine the best form of cancer treatment, taking into account the effectiveness, side effects, quality-of-life implications and other considerations that are significant to the patient.
(970) 569-7608
Renea Nilsson, Clinical Trials Coordinator
 
While receiving cancer treatment at Shaw Regional Cancer Center, patients may have the opportunity to participate in our clinical trials program, which is conducted in cooperation with the University of Colorado. Clinical trials are the studies that allow patients access to new methods of treating cancer with chemotherapy, biotherapy or radiation.
 
Clinical Trial Guidelines
 
Clinical trials follow strict guidelines to provide scientifically sound results, and to ensure the safety of all participants. Every trial has a specific treatment plan known as a "protocol." Each protocol typically includes the following components:
 
    Rationale for the study
    Objectives of the study
    Number of participants to be included
    Specific eligibility criteria
    Intervention/treatment being studied
    Duration and schedule of the trial
    Possible side effects
    Required medical tests and follow-ups
 
Endpoints of the Study
 
There are many safeguards in place to ensure the protection of clinical trial participants, including federal oversight by the Office of Human Research Protections (OHRP), as well as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Institutional Review Board (IRB). These agencies provide approval, monitoring and the informed consent process to ensure that all participants understand their rights and responsibilities and what they can expect for the duration of the trial.
 
Before any drug is tested on humans in a clinical trial, it must undergo rigorous laboratory and animal testing. The FDA uses the results from these tests to determine first whether a drug is safe and then to evaluate its potential efficacy in human clinical trials.
 
For more information, call Clinical Trials Coordinator, Amanda Nokes, at (970) 275-1488, or refer to the recommended resources below.
 
    The National Cancer Institute
    U.S. Food and Drug Administration (or call 1-888-INFO-FDA)
    U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH)
 
If you have a family history of cancer, your chances of getting some types of cancer may be higher than that of the average person. The Hereditary Cancer Service evaluates patients' risks and provides guidance for reducing those risks.
 
We know that genetic factors, in combination with environmental influences, play a role in the development of cancer. Many cancers are random occurrences. However, some people inherit changes in their genes called mutations, which put them at greater risk for developing cancer. This is called hereditary cancer predisposition.
 
Many types of cancer can have a hereditary basis. Genetic testing is most commonly ordered for family histories of breast, colon, ovarian and uterine cancers, but is also available for other types of cancer, including thyroid, stomach and pancreatic cancers. We are still finding genes linked to cancer. In some cases, testing through a genetic research study is available.
 
More frequent screening, medications or surgeries can help prevent genetically predisposed cancers or detect them earlier. Early detection leads to a better chance of successful treatment.
 
Dr. Alex Urquhart and Genetic Counselor Christine Barth are specially trained to evaluate personal and family medical histories and help patients understand the genetic testing process and test results. A genetic counseling appointment includes discussion of hereditary cancer syndromes in general, patient-specific risks, risks to family members, and discussion of genetic testing, if applicable. For information or to make an appointment, please call (970) 569-7626.
What's Your Risk for Hereditary Cancer?
 
Use this checklist to evaluate your risk for hereditary cancer. If you answer yes to one or more of the questions, cancer genetic counseling may be appropriate for you.
 
    Have several family members had cancer?
    Have you or a relative had cancer before age 50?
    Has more than one family member had the same type of cancer?
    Have you or a relative had more than one type of cancer?
    Have you or a relative had a rare or unusual cancer?
 
(970) 569-7429
 
Shaw Regional Cancer Center's Positron Emission Tomography Imaging (PET) and Computerized Tomography (CT) scan allows physicians to measure the body's abnormal molecular cell activity to detect cancer (such as breast cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, lymphoma, and melanoma and other skin cancers). PET/CT scans are simple, painless and fast, providing physicians the information they need to diagnose disease early so that treatment can begin quickly.
 
In one continuous full-body scan (usually about 30 minutes), PET captures images of miniscule changes in the body's metabolism caused by the growth of abnormal cells, while CT images simultaneously allow physicians to pinpoint the exact location, size and shape of the diseased tissue or tumor.
 
PET/CT Applications
 
    Determine extent of disease
    Determine location of disease for biopsy, surgery or treatment planning
    Assess response to and effectiveness of treatments
    Detect residual or recurrent disease
    May assist in avoiding invasive diagnostic procedures
 
There are tremendous benefits to having a combined PET/CT scan, including early cancer detection, accurate staging and localization, and precise treatment and monitoring. With the high-tech images that the PET/CT scanner provides, patients have a better chance for a positive outcome and for avoiding unnecessary procedures.
 
A PET/CT image also provides early detection of the recurrence of cancer, revealing tumors that might otherwise be obscured by scar tissue resulting from surgery and radiation therapy, particularly in the head and neck. The combination PET/CT provides physicians a more complete picture of what is occurring in the body - both anatomically and metabolically.