Man in the mountains with hands raised

Cancer care in South Denver

2018 Womens Choice Award America's Best Hospitals Cancer Care

As a Comprehensive Hospital Program Cancer Program (CHCP) recognized by the American College of Surgeon’s Commission on Cancer (CoC), Sky Ridge provides the greater Denver, Colorado area with the latest technology for diagnosing and treating cancer. Sky Ridge is also Denver’s preferred hospital for cancer care, according to the National Research Corporation.

Sky Ridge cancer care services and support

Patients choose Sky Ridge for our wide array of cancer care services and expert staff, including:

  • 14-bed inpatient unit with private patient rooms
  • Access to clinical trials and state-of-the-art treatment options
  • Cancer registry to collect data and provide lifelong patient follow-up
  • Cancer resource center
    • Cancer massage services
  • Cancer care exercise program
  • Cancer screenings
  • Ytrium-90 radioembolization of liver tumors
  • Infusion services
  • Mobile PET/CT
  • Nurse navigation program
  • Pet therapy
  • Monitoring quality and outcomes to improve patient care

About Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute

As a member of the Sarah Cannon Cancer Network of Excellence, our family of hospitals features leading edge cancer treatment and clinical trials. Sarah Cannon offers modern therapies for people facing cancer across the U.S., and our partnership provides patients with personal, individualized care while benefiting from the network of resources Sarah Cannon has to offer.  

askSARAH helpline

Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Sky Ridge Medical Center is pleased to offer access to askSARAH, a dedicated helpline designed to help answer your cancer-related questions. Whether you have been recently diagnosed with cancer or have questions about screenings, signs or symptoms, a registered askSARAH nurse can help. Committed to ensuring you have the right resources close to home, our nurses are available 24/7 and all calls are confidential. Contact askSARAH at (303) 253-3225 to connect directly to a nurse who can help you today.

Oncologists and other experts

  • Board-certified medical oncologists—Specialize in diagnosing and treating cancer patients with chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy; medical oncologists are often the main healthcare provider for a cancer patient
    • Our team of medical oncologists also includes top interventional oncologists, hematologists and pediatric hematologists in the area
  • Dedicated radiation oncologist—Treats cancer using high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells or shrink tumors
    • Dedicated radiation therapy program for treatment
    • Free oncology massage for radiation therapy patients
  • Radiologists, including diagnostic and interventional—Diagnose cancer by interpreting imaging of areas inside the body; interventional radiologists perform minimally invasive, image-guided procedures to diagnose and treat cancers without the use of surgery
  • Pathologists—Studies cells and tissues under a microscope and relays information about the cells to physicians to determine best treatment options
  • Surgical oncologists—Performs surgical procedures on cancer patients, including the removal of solid tumors; surgical oncologists also perform biopsies to obtain tissue for diagnosis
  • Reconstructive physicians (plastic surgeons)—Surgically reshapes disfigurement that may occur as a result of cancer treatment

Nurse navigation program

Nurse discussing treatment with patientA cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming and often leaves patients and families feeling concerned and confused. Our oncology nurse navigators are an important member of your care team. They serve as the first point of contact when a patient is newly-diagnosed with cancer. They then follow the patient throughout the treatment journey to ensure each patient has the educational resources, support and services they need to receive high quality care in a timely manner.

This specially-trained team will keep you and your family informed about procedures and treatment plans, help expedite follow-up appointments and work with you to help make an informed decision about your care plan.

Our navigators offer guidance in the following cancer care areas:

  • Breast cancer care
  • Cardiac cancer care
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) cancer care
  • Lung cancer care
  • Neuro-oncology cancer care

Interventional radiology cancer therapy

Unique to our Cancer Center at Sky Ridge is our expertise in minimally invasive interventional radiology (IR) for treating several types of cancer, including that of the liver, breast and colon. Patients come from around the world to consult with Dr. Charles Nutting, a nationally recognized leading interventional radiologist who specializes in minimally invasive cancer therapies.

Interventional radiology is a sub-specialty of radiology in which minimally invasive procedures are performed using image guidance (e.g., X-ray and MRI). These doctors specialize in using nonsurgical techniques for targeted treatments. When IR is used to treat cancer or oncology patients, it is called interventional oncology.

The latest cancer treatment technology

At Sky Ridge, you will find only the latest and most leading edge equipment in Dr. Nutting's interventional radiology suite. He says that this leading-edge equipment allows him to provide life-extending therapy for cancer patients.

Neuro-oncology program

For those who are diagnosed with a brain or spinal cord tumor, it’s critical for these patients to see a high-quality neurosurgeon trained in treating these specific conditions. The research surrounding these brain and spinal cord tumors is ongoing, and in some cases, the survival rates for certain brain cancers has increased significantly in the last few years.

While clinical trials for benign brain tumors are uncommon, there are some malignant brain tumors that have clinical trials associated with them. At Sky Ridge Medical Center, our specialists are on hand to discuss clinical trials and help patients make an educated decision about their treatment options. Our surgical team is a leader in HealthONE in neuro-oncology, using new and innovative treatment methods to evaluate, diagnose and remove brain and spinal cord tumors.

Cancer screenings at Sky Ridge

With our partnership with the annual 9Health Fair, Sky Ridge is able to provide the Denver, Colorado community with access to cancer screenings and education.

We provide screenings for the following types of cancer:

  • Breast—Learn more about our annual Women’s Symposium where we discuss screening information for breast health and lung cancer.
  • Colorectal—We provide take home kits and encourage people in the community to take advantage of our “Colonoscopy Saturday” program.
  • Skin—At our annual Women’s Symposium, we offer a workshop about fending off skin cancer.
  • Gynecological—We provide education on HPV for both adults and vaccine education for parents.
  • Prostate—We partner with the Prostate Conditions Education Council for our annual free prostate cancer screening day. Contact us to learn about our upcoming fall 2019 date.

All who attend the 9Health Fair are notified with abnormal findings after the event. We will continue to post the results of these events on our website.

Cancers we treat

Sky Ridge Medical Center is recognized as a Comprehensive Hospital Cancer Program by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer because we diagnose and treat a wide scope of different cancers, including:

Bladder cancer

At Sky Ridge, our cancer specialists use the most advanced techniques to accurately diagnose and treat your bladder cancer in a compassionate, healing environment. Bladder cancer is one of the most common types of cancer that we treat, and our team will work with you to develop a personalized bladder cancer treatment plan to help you battle this disease.

Our non-surgical bladder cancer treatments include:

  • Chemotherapy—Uses drugs to kill the cancerous cells. It may be administered directly to the bladder (intra vesicle) or through a vein in the arm (systemic). Systemic chemotherapy can be used when treating patients with Stages T2-4 cancer in combination with bladder cancer surgery.
  • Immunotherapy—Uses biological therapy drugs to signal the body’s immune system to fight cancer. The drugs are inserted through a catheter directly into the bladder. Immunotherapy is usually used to treat Stage Ta, T1 and CIS patients.
  • Radiation therapy—Uses high energy beams aimed at the tumor to kill or shrink the cancer cells; usually used when treating Stage T2-4 bladder cancer patients.

Bladder cancer surgery

Transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT) is performed to remove the section of the bladder that is affected by the tumor only. TURBT is a treatment option primarily for Stage 0 and Stage I bladder cancer patients.

A radical cystectomy involves removing the entire bladder. For women, bladder as well as the uterus, ovaries and part of the vagina are all removed. For men, the bladder as well as the prostate and seminal vesicles are removed. This surgery usually is performed in tandem with another procedure that creates a new way for urine to leave the body.

Brain cancer

Brain and spinal cord tumors are the result of abnormal cells that have grown out of control. Every year, nearly 24,000 cases of malignant brain or spinal cord tumors are diagnosed in the U.S.

Not all brain tumors are created equal. Some are benign and some are cancerous. Important facts about brain and spinal cord tumors include:

  • Less than one-third of brain tumors are malignant (cancerous).
  • The survival rate for brain and spinal tumors can vary.
    • This depends on the type of tumor and other factors. Younger patients tend to survive longer than older patients.
  • While the direct cause of a brain tumor is often unclear, the risk factors for brain tumors include genetics, family history and age.
    • An estimated five to 10 percent of brain tumors are hereditary.
  • In children up to the age of 14, brain tumors are the second most common type of cancer.
  • For primary, brain tumors, the median age at diagnosis is age 60.

Specialized treatment for brain cancer

At Sky Ridge, patients with brain cancer receive individualized, expert-level care from a team of dedicated neuro-oncology surgeons, including our medical director, Dr. Brent Kimball. Our surgical team is a leader in HealthONE in neuro-oncology, using new and innovative treatment methods to evaluate, diagnose and remove brain and spinal cord tumors.

Our neuro-oncology nurse navigator, Melissa Shields, RN, uses a multi-disciplinary approach to assist patients who are undergoing brain and spinal cord tumor evaluations and treatment.

While clinical trials for benign tumors are uncommon, there are some malignant brain tumors that have clinical trials associated with them. At Sky Ridge, our specialists are on hand to discuss clinical trials and help patients make an educated decision about their treatment options.

Gynecologic cancer

At Sky Ridge, we are committed to providing the highest quality of care and compassion for women with cancer of the pelvic reproductive system. As part of our comprehensive women’s surgical services program, we have fellowship-trained gynecological oncology surgeons on staff.

Our team will first help you understand your diagnosis and disease and then work with you to create a personalized treatment plan using the most advanced therapies available.

Gynecologic cancers we treat

Our highly trained team is experienced in treating:

  • Endometrial cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Vulvar cancer

Treatment options

The Sky Ridge GYN oncology team is comprised of surgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists and all the support patients need on their road from diagnosis to treatment and recovery.

Our team works closely with you and on your behalf to select the most appropriate, most effective and least invasive treatment possible.

Our treatment options include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery, including robotic surgery

Your treatment plan will take into account the type of cancer, its stage and other factors, including family history.

Skin cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. Experts estimate that more than two million people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year. Coloradans’ active lifestyle at high altitude creates a higher risk than those at lower altitudes. The good news is that skin cancer can be treated successfully when caught early.

The skin cancer experts at Sky Ridge in South Metro Denver are highly experienced and use the latest techniques to diagnose and treat all types of skin cancer. In addition, our team uses a multidisciplinary, coordinated approach to cancer care.

Types of skin cancer:

  • Melanoma—Although melanoma is one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer, it can be completely cured if found early and completely removed. Most melanomas are brown, blue, black or multi-colored with brown, red, blue and black areas. Melanomas may itch or bleed, but most melanomas cause no symptoms. Look for moles with irregular shapes or borders.
  • Basal cell carcinoma—Can be flat, raised or shiny and can be red, pink or clear in color. Some larger basal cell cancers may be crusted over or ooze. They may also heal and come back.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma—Are usually new growths. They look like cuts that have not healed, and they may bleed easily. They may also have a hard, rough or scaly appearance.

Treat your skin as well as it treats you. If you notice any changes or abnormal areas, see your doctor right away.

Mohs micrographic surgery

Mohs micrographic surgery, or Mohs microsurgery, is an extremely precise treatment for basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma. Because the roots of skin cancer often extend beyond the visible tour, Mohs surgeons use microscopes and careful retrieval of cancerous tissue to ensure complete removal of the cancer to the root.

This precision leads to an estimated 99 percent cure-rate for new cancers and 95 percent cure-rate for recurrent cancers. Additionally, the procedure decreases the chance for regrowth while minimizing scarring and damage to surrounding, healthy tissue.

Skin self-exam

When performing a skin self-exam, it is important to check your whole body thoroughly, not missing any areas. Pay close attention to your scalp, neck, arms and other areas on your head and face that receive a lot of sunlight. Become familiar with where your moles, birthmarks and blemishes are located and what they look like.

Bend your elbows and look carefully at your forearms, upper arms and hands. Make sure to check the undersides of these areas as well. Look at the back and front of your legs and feet. Do not forget between your toes and the soles of your feet. Check your back and buttocks with a hand mirror.

Skin cancer: What you need to know

Thyroid cancer

The American Cancer Society estimates about 52,070 new cases of thyroid cancer (14,260 in men and 37,810 in women) and about 2,170 deaths (1,020 men and 1,150 women) in 2019. While these numbers may be low compared to breast or lung cancer, it is a significant increase from three decades ago.

At Sky Ridge, our team uses the most advanced treatment and therapies available to find and treatment thyroid cancer at the earliest stage possible. We will create a treatment plan that is right for you—all in a compassionate, healing environment close to your home.

What is thyroid cancer?

Thyroid cancer is a form of cancer that develops from the tissues of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located below the Adam’s apple on the front part of the neck. The thyroid gland produces several important hormones, such as the thyroid hormone, which is involved in controlling body temperature, weight, energy level and heart rate. The thyroid gland also produces calcitonin, which helps control how the body uses calcium.

Signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer

Common signs and symptoms for thyroid cancer may include:

  • Cough
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarse voice
  • Neck pain
  • Noisy breathing, wheezing
  • Swelling or lump in neck

Thyroid cancer risk factors

Common risk factors for thyroid cancer include:

  • Majority of those diagnosed are 40 years old or older, and those diagnosed with anaplastic thyroid cancer are usually at least 60 years old
  • Women are three times more likely to develop thyroid cancer
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Obesity
  • Iodine deficiency
  • Family history and genetic makeup

Treatment options

Our team of doctors, nurses, surgeons and other healthcare professionals will work together to create a treatment plan that is individualized for you. This may include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgical procedures
  • Medications
  • Lifestyle changes

Cancer care outcomes

At the Sarah Cannon/HealthONE Cancer Network, we continually monitor quality indicators and outcomes to improve patient care. These measures include evidence-based guidelines. Providing care according to the recommendations of the Commission on Cancer, as well as the National Quality Forum (NQF), the American Society of Oncology (ASCO) and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), is more likely to result in high-quality patient outcomes.

Sky Ridge Medical Center is proud of our outcomes on key cancer program measures. Our multidisciplinary approach with collaboration among physicians, clinicians and nurse navigators improves communication, coordination of care and effective treatment for our patients.