Navigating Cancer

Your ally in managing cancer

woman and daughter embrace

Guided care from the start of your cancer journey.

Better together

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center is UW Medicine’s adult cancer care program. The care you have come to expect will continue uninterrupted.

You and Our Experts

Cancer comes in many forms. We treat every patient as an individual, and you will find specialists for your type of cancer – from the rarest to the most common.

Life Beyond Treatment

Our programs are designed to support you and your loved ones before, during and after treatment.

Some of our common services:

We want to make sure you thrive after cancer. Because cancer and the treatments can result in long-lasting or late-onset effects, we’ll provide you with information and resources in your community to help you understand and manage the issues you may face after your cancer treatment is complete. At UW Medicine, we have a large team of social workers who make it their mission to provide patients with resources to help transition to life after treatment. This includes help with setting up transportation, housing, care resources back home and information on how to be prepared after treatment.

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For many people, hair loss from cancer treatment can be disheartening. The Beauty and Cancer program at UW Medical Center understands the emotional effects this can have on patients and has helped thousands of people feel confident about their appearance so they can focus on treatment. Established in 1989, the program provides free wigs, hats and scarves to cancer patients receiving care at UWMC and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. The goal is to help patients begin thinking in a new way about how he or she wants to look, and accessories are a fun way to experiment and help lift spirits.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 206.598.3604.

This is an important visit for you, and we will help you arrive prepared. During your visit, we will review your medical records and health insurance and can help you with financial matters. We recommend you bring a family member or friend with you for support and to help take notes, along with a list of questions to ask your doctor. Be prepared by having the following documents with you on your first visit:

  • Insurance information, photo ID and referral information
  • List of prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines and supplements
  • Completed medical history form

We also encourage you to arrive early to manage parking.

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Emotional support is an important part of your treatment. Support groups and community resources can help you and your loved ones through treatment and recovery.

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UW Medicine and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance provide a full spectrum of cancer management – from caring for patients who are newly diagnosed, to coordinating specialty care for patients with advanced forms of the disease. Our team includes medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, clinical pharmacists, nurses, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals with special training.


At UW Medicine and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, our palliative care and support teams include physicians, nurses and licensed social workers who are part of your cancer care team during your journey.

A specialized medical care, called palliative care, may be offered to help provide relief from the symptoms, pain and stresses of cancer and cancer treatments. Palliative care is available to anyone at any stage of their cancer disease. The team develops treatment plans that address the physical symptoms of the disease and its treatments, as well as the practical aspects of daily living during or after treatments, which may include support for emotional, social and spiritual needs. To find out more about our palliative care support services, ask your doctor.

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When cancer therapies are no longer controlling the disease, our team helps our patients and their families find compassionate hospice care, also known as end-of-life care. This special type of care is often provided by a specially trained hospice team of nurses, social workers, chaplains and volunteers and may include medical, psychological and spiritual support. Our teams can assist patients and their families with understanding when and how to find the appropriate hospice care for them. To find out more about our hospice care support services, ask your doctor.


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For some patients, their treatment plan includes surgery, certain types of radiation therapy, and clinical treatments that require 24-hour care (like some chemotherapies or blood and marrow transplants). This care will take place at UW Medical Center, #1 hospital in Seattle and Washington state. Our healthcare providers have specialized experience caring for people with cancer, and as part of your cancer team, they will work together to make your stay and care the best possible. This includes seamless coordination between all treatment locations, support for you and your family during your stay and helpful resources and information.

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Lymphedema is a condition characterized by swelling, usually in the arm or leg but in some cases also the torso, breast, face or neck. The swelling is caused when the lymphatic system is unable to work properly and an abnormal amount of fluid collects in the tissue of the affected area. It may be caused by a lymphatic system compromised at birth or by an injury, paralysis, infection, surgery or “venous insufficiency,” a condition in which veins do not efficiently return blood from the legs back to the heart.

Lymphedema may also occur in some patients after cancer treatments, such as radiation or lymph node removal. It can occur immediately after these treatments or sometimes months or even years later.

Our certified occupational and physical therapists have advanced training in lymphedema treatment and help patients recognize early signs of the condition.

For example, a ring may seem difficult to remove from your finger; your shirtsleeve, pan leg, socks or shoes feel tight; or you may experience tingling, aching, burning or a feeling of heaviness or fullness in the affected limb.

Our team is committed to creating an individualized treatment plan to help patients understand, control and manage their condition.

Therapy includes:
Education: instruction in skin care, manual lymphatic drainage and lymphedema risk-reduction practices
Exercise: exercises that help the lymphatic system work more efficiently and improve flexibility, strength and endurance for daily living activities
Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD): a special type of massage to facilitate the drainage of lymphatic fluid from the affected area of the body
Compression: compression bandaging to move fluid out of the affected part of the body or a lymphedema compression garment

Treatment is typically scheduled two to three times a week for six to eight weeks and is available for any patient concerned about developing lymphedema. A physician's referral is required.

We believe in sharing our knowledge, discussing options and helping you make the most informed choices each step of the way. From caregiver retreats and supports for family members to appointments that preview the next steps in your care, we share our insights and experience empowering you to make decisions about your care.

What is a gynecologic oncologist?

An obstetrician/gynecologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of women with cancer of the reproductive organs.

What are the risk factors for cervical cancer?

Testing positive for certain HPV virus types is the largest risk factor for developing cervical cancer. Multiple sexual partners in your lifetime (more than five), intercourse at an early age and smoking are also contributors.

How is cancer of the cervix treated?

If a woman has cervical cancer, surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation may be needed to fight the cancer. The best treatment for an individual woman will vary, depending on her health history, the stage of the disease and issues related to childbearing. Several treatment techniques are available. The lesion frequently can be easily targeted with a surgical instrument called a colposcope. The abnormal tissue can also be removed with a specialized electrode or vaporized with a laser, depending on the situation. Treatment can be customized after discussion with your surgeon.

What is a cervical cone biopsy?

For some women, a deeper, cone-shaped piece of tissue must be removed from the cervix in order to make a correct diagnosis or to treat cervical cancer. Research shows that early cervical cancer can be treated with this surgical technique, while preserving fertility.

What kinds of treatment are available for endometrial cancer?

Most often, surgery is recommended to remove the uterus, the ovaries and the fallopian tubes. Sometimes, lymph nodes are removed at the time of the surgery. In addition, radiation, chemotherapy and possibly hormone treatment may be utilized.

What is the treatment for ovarian cancer?

Surgery is always required, often followed by chemotherapy. Research into the best way to administer chemotherapy is rapidly evolving, so devising the best course of treatment is done in consultation with a gynecologic oncologist.

What treatments are available for vulvar cancer?

A colposcopy should be performed of the external and internal genitalia, to identify all areas involved in either pre-cancerous changes or invasive cancer. Smaller cancers are then surgically removed, along with the lymph nodes in the groin. Larger cancers require treatment with radiation and chemotherapy.

What are the risk factors for vaginal cancer?

The most likely association is a history of HPV (human papilloma virus), usually in the form of genital warts. There is also probably an association with multiple sex partners and smoking, especially in women under 65 years old. The most important risk factor is a previous diagnosis with cervical dysplasia or cancer. Doctors caring for women with a history of cervical dysplasia or cancer need to obtain regular Pap smears from the vaginal canal.

We’re pleased you want to validate and explore all of your care options and providers. If you or someone you care for is diagnosed with cancer, it’s common to want to get a second opinion before making a decision on treatment. A second opinion helps you to feel more confident about the decisions you make.

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For many people who experience surviving cancer, the years after cancer treatment can bring physical and psychological challenges. Our physicians, nurses, researchers and psychologists are experts in survivorship, and will work with you and your primary care physician. Here are some resources and programs for adult survivors to help you to live well beyond cancer.

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Our cancer specialists will help you understand your treatment options and where you can receive your care. Depending on your treatment plan, you may receive outpatient treatment at many of our locations, like one of our UW Medicine locations or the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. If your treatment plan requires surgery or in-hospital treatments, you will receive care at UW Medical Center. Pediatric patients receive similar inpatient services at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Your cancer care team will guide you on what is best for you and will work with your primary care provider as needed.

Nationally Ranked in Cancer Care

UW Medical Center’s cancer care is recognized as top in the nation and the only nationally ranked program in Washington (with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center).