SEATTLE — Sept. 18, 2006 — On Friday, Sept. 22, 2006 a new clinic on the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center campus will provide ongoing, comprehensive cancer screening and preventive care to help Puget Sound-area residents stay healthy and cancer-free.
The Cancer Prevention Clinic, to be located in the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance outpatient clinic, will offer state-of-the-art cancer early detection, risk assessment and counseling services for any western Washington resident. The clinic will also provide interested individuals with an opportunity to take part in Hutchinson Center research studies aimed at warding off cancer or spotting it at its earliest stages, when cure rates are highest.
"All individuals need information about their cancer risk," said Scott Ramsey, M.D., Ph.D., clinic director and a member of the Center's Public Health Sciences Division. "But cancer screening is generally applied very haphazardly, and the typical annual physical is not always the ideal setting for a full risk assessment. We think there is an unmet demand for high-quality, comprehensive cancer screening and have designed a program we believe will be unique among cancer centers."
Statistics show that about one in every two men and one in every three women can expect to develop cancer during his or her lifetime. Yet experts believe that more than two-thirds of all cancer cases could be prevented if individuals would stop smoking, exercise regularly and make other healthy lifestyle choices such as eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Besides providing cancer-screening tests such as mammograms and colonoscopies, the new clinic will include nutritional consultations and refer smokers to an effective program for kicking the habit.
Many individuals with a relative who has had cancer may be worried about their risk of developing that same disease, Ramsey said. "A woman whose father dies of pancreatic cancer may be very concerned about getting the disease herself. Yet in all likelihood, she has a much higher risk of developing breast cancer or if she's a smoker, a higher risk of lung cancer. We'll provide a personalized risk assessment and screening recommendations for each person."
As a physician, Ramsey knows that preventing cancer or diagnosing it early spares patients and their loved ones from a great deal of pain and suffering. As a health-care economist, he is also well aware that cancer prevention and screening make good economic sense.
"Cancer screening and prevention are among the most cost-effective things we can do in the health-care system, yet they are not applied broadly and often not covered by insurance," he said. "We're happy to spend $100,000 on a drug for treating advanced cancer that may not extend life very much, but we are not willing to invest in cancer screening. I want to bring that cost effectiveness to the community as broadly as I can."
The fact that not all insurers cover preventive care means that some individuals seen at the clinic will have to pay out-of-pocket. Individuals do not need a referral from their primary care physician to make an appointment at the clinic.
"We will work very hard to keep barriers as low as they can be," said Marian Johnson, clinic coordinator.
Ramsey's hope is that eventually the clinic may be able to attract funding that would subsidize costs for those unable to afford screening tests. "As a primary-care doctor, it's hard to do cancer prevention. We have an acute-care system. I'm hoping the time is right for people to begin thinking about cancer care in a preventive way."
As excited as he is about the opportunity to offer preventive care to the community, Ramsey and colleague John Potter, Ph.D., director of the Center's Public Health Sciences Division, are equally excited about the unprecedented opportunity to directly link the Center's outstanding research in cancer prevention and early detection with clinical care. All patients seen at the clinic will be asked for their consent to be contacted for their willingness to participate in future research studies and to donate blood or other biological samples. They also will be invited to join or be referred to appropriate current research studies that may help them reduce their risk of disease.
The Cancer Prevention Clinic is distinct from the Prevention Center, a research facility in the Center's Robert M. Arnold Building that was established to help scientists investigate the causes, progression, control, treatment and prevention of disease through studies that often involve volunteer participants.
"Traditionally, doctors are trained to focus on diagnosis and treatment," said Potter, one of the clinic's earliest proponents. "However, we have worked over many decades to accumulate data and tools that allow us to think about practical prevention and early detection. It is so gratifying to see that we can integrate what we do in our public-health research with the clinical programs right on our own campus."
Initially, the clinic will see patients for a half day each Friday but is poised to expand its services as demand increases. In addition to Ramsey, Matthew Hollon, M.D., and John Choe, M.D., faculty in the University of Washington Department of Medicine, will provide care at the clinic. The clinic also will provide education for general medical and oncology fellows, who will rotate through the clinic.
The clinic will closely link with the other SCCA services that provide risk assessment for individuals of higher-than-average risk for breast, ovarian and gastrointestinal cancers. However, unlike the high-risk clinics, which provide a one-time consultation and recommendations for follow-up care, the Cancer Prevention Clinic will provide ongoing screening — including for those referred by the high-risk clinics.
Ramsey said that the new clinic puts the Hutchinson Center and the SCCA at the forefront of preventive medicine.
"No cancer center comes close to the Hutchinson Center's leadership in terms of prevention science," Ramsey said. "We are thrilled to now have a means to translate all that research into clinical prevention."
To make an appointment, or for general information, contact the SCCA Intake Office at (206) 288-1024 or (800) 804-8824 or visit www.seattlecca.org.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
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Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, our interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists and humanitarians work together to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Our researchers, including three Nobel laureates, bring a relentless pursuit and passion for health, knowledge and hope to their work and to the world. For more information, please visit www.fhcrc.org.