Gastrointestinal Cancer Prevention Program
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, we not only treat patients who have gastrointestinal (GI) cancers — we help prevent people from getting these cancers of the digestive system in the first place.
If genetic testing shows you are at high risk for a GI cancer, our team of gastroenterologists, genetic counselors and medical geneticists at the Gastrointestinal Cancer Prevention Program can expertly assess, screen and monitor you in order to reduce that risk.
Programs for screening and surveillance (monitoring) of GI cancers have been found to detect cancer at an earlier stage, when it is curable. We can help assess your personal risk of cancer and design a personalized prevention plan for you.
FAQs about GI cancer prevention
Some cancers show early warning signs; GI cancers do not. In fact, most people with an undiagnosed GI cancer don’t experience health problems until the cancer reaches an advanced stage. That’s why a prevention plan is so important for people with a genetic mutation (change) that puts them at high risk. If a cancer or precancerous growth does begin to develop, it can be caught in an early stage, when it can most easily be treated.
If you are referred to the GI Prevention Clinic at Fred Hutch, it means that you have had genetic testing and have already been identified as someone who is at high risk for a GI cancer, either because of a strong family history of GI cancer or because of your test results.
We work with people like you who have been referred to us by their primary care physician or another medical provider, either from within Fred Hutch or another medical system. People who know they have a strong family history of GI cancer can also contact us directly and make an appointment without a referral.
A strong family history means that two or more close relatives on the same side of your family have had a GI cancer, especially if the cancer was diagnosed before age 50.
You are also at high risk if you have had:
- A precancerous GI polyp before age 40
- More than 10 precancerous GI polyps at any age
- A GI cancer before age 50
- More than one primary cancer, one of which was a GI cancer, at any age
- An abnormal result on a genetic test for a hereditary GI cancer syndrome, such as Lynch syndrome (HNPCC) or familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
What happens at your first appointment
Before your visit to the Gastrointestinal Cancer Prevention Program at Fred Hutch, our GI experts will review your medical records, your family history of GI and other cancers and the results of any tests you may have had elsewhere.
Once we have this information, we will schedule a time for you to come in to discuss your results and work with you to build your personalized prevention program. Depending on your unique risk profile, you may meet with one or more providers — such as a gastroenterologist, medical geneticist, genetic counselor or nutritionist — during this appointment. Your appointment will last about two hours.
Your plan will be as unique as you are. For instance, if your test results show you are at risk for colon cancer, your plan may include a yearly colonoscopy. If you have a different type of risk, our gastroenterologist might prescribe a medication. You might have surveillance and screening endoscopies done at Fred Hutch or the University of Washington Medical Center. Sometimes, we refer patients to the High-Risk Surveillance Clinic at Fred Hutch for further care.
- Information about hereditary and nonhereditary GI cancer risk factors
- Strategies to lower your GI cancer risk
- Information about clinical trials you are eligible to participate in through Fred Hutch and our partners at Seattle Children's and UW Medicine
- A detailed letter summarizing your visit
- Screening by physical exam and imaging (colonoscopy, upper endoscopy or endoscopic ultrasound)
- Risk-reducing surgery
- Medicine to prevent cancer
The Gastrointestinal Cancer Prevention Program team is made up of experts from a variety of specialties within Fred Hutch.
Gastroenterologists are trained to diagnose and treat diseases of the gastrointestinal system, including cancers of the liver, pancreas, esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum and anus. At the GI Cancer Prevention Program at Fred Hutch, our gastroenterologists educate patients and help them understand how their genetic risk affects the treatment of their blood cancer.
A medical geneticist is a physician who is specially trained to know what types of genetic tests to order for patients, as well as how to interpret the results. Testing for genetic disorders is complex and includes many different types of tests. Interpreting the results also requires specialized knowledge, because results are typically not simple or straightforward.
This specially trained health care provider helps you understand your risk of a genetic disorder. A genetic counselor can also determine if genetic testing could be helpful for you, based on your personal and family medical and health history. After you have had genetic testing, a genetic counselor can offer information and resources for prevention; connect you with prevention programs, such as those available at Fred Hutch; and help with testing your family members, based on your results. Fred Hutch Genetic Counseling Service providers are all licensed, board-certified genetic counselors.
Registered dietitians are credentialed food and nutrition experts. To earn this designation, they must undergo extensive training and formal education, including completing an internship and passing a national registration exam. Registered dietitians provide medical nutrition therapy which means they use an evidence-based approach to treat and help patients manage medical conditions through diet and nutrition.
Your nurse manages your care alongside your physician. They also assist with procedures and treatments. Nurses are resources for you and your caregiver. They answer questions and help with a wide range of topics, like how to cope with side effects or get other services you need at Fred Hutch.
Your patient care coordinator will likely be one of the first people you meet when you come to Fred Hutch. They will gather your medical records and family health history and help guide you to the appropriate genetics or prevention care services within Fred Hutch.
Find care team profiles
Meet the caring, dedicated people who take care of you and your family at Fred Hutch.
Fred Hutch Genetic Counseling Service providers are all licensed, board-certified genetic counselors.
Everett Lally provides counseling for a variety of hereditary cancer syndromes. He has a special interest in cancer genetics with a focus on gastrointestinal diseases and prostate cancer. He is certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling and licensed by the Washington State Department of Health.
Emily Maxwell provides counseling for a variety of hereditary cancer syndromes. She has completed her Masters of Science in Genetic Counseling in Boston, and is excited to be part of the oncology community in Seattle. She has a special interest in hereditary cancer and enjoys helping patients and their families use genetic information to navigate cancer prevention, treatment and surveillance. She is certified by the American Board of Genetic Counseling and licensed by the Washington State Department of Health.