Expert guidance and resources to prevent and detect cancer early.

Screening Saves Lives

Screening can detect cancers early when they’re easier to treat and identify pre-cancers to prevent them from developing.

Genetics and Prevention

Your family history and genetics can identify your risk for some cancers. The genetic counselors at UW Medicine help you know your risk and plan for what’s next.

Health, Lifestyle and Risk

Healthy choices and behaviors like sunblock and exercise can help reduce cancer risk. Explore ways to put your health first.

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Between 5-10 percent of all cancers are hereditary, which means that changes in specific genes are passed from one blood relative to another. People who inherit one of these gene changes will have a higher risk of developing cancer at some point in their lives.

Genetic researchers at the UW Medicine have created a program to help people know if their families have what’s called a hereditary cancer syndrome or inherited cancer. The genetic testing team looks for specific inherited mutations in a person’s genes that may increase the chance of developing cancer. Our genetic counselors specialize in reviewing your family medical history and help you understand what your test results mean.

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Certain types of cancer seem to run in some families. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), this can be because of behaviors or exposures that increase cancer risk, such as smoking. Cancer risk may also be affected by other factors like obesity. At UW Medicine, cancer prevention experts can help you identify your risk factors and show you how to control or change factors and lower your chance of getting cancer. Many environmental, dietary and lifestyle factors may increase your chances of getting cancer. Staying healthy, though, is your best chance at lowering your risk for cancer. This also means avoiding behaviors that are known to increase risk, like smoking tobacco.

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Knowing how and when to be screened for which type of cancer will depend on your age, gender and other risk factors, like family history. The American Cancer Screening guidelines provide recommendations for cancer screening. Talk with your primary care doctor about screening for cancer.

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Condition Spotlight



Leukemia is a cancer that starts in blood-forming cells in bone marrow. Patients with leukemia produce more white blood cells than needed, crowding out the red blood cells and platelets. These cells can’t fight infection like white blood cells can, and they can start to affect organs.


Early on, many types of leukemia produce no obvious symptoms. Later symptoms may include any of the following: anemia and fatigue, easily bruising or bleeding, infections, swollen lymph nodes, loss of weight and appetite and lower left ribcage pain due to a swollen spleen.

Risk factors and causes

Scientists do not know the cause of leukemia. Tobacco smokers are more prone to some types of leukemia than nonsmokers. Certain kinds of chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy used to treat other cancers can cause leukemia. Family history is another risk factor.


An initial diagnosis is confirmed by blood test or bone marrow biopsy that shows abnormal white cell count. A doctor will suspect leukemia if a person has an enlarged liver, spleen or lymph nodes; shows significant bruising or bleeding; has persistent infections; among other symptoms.


Typical treatments for leukemia include chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Other treatments include biologic therapy, targeted therapy and stem cell transplant. Your treatment will depend on the type of leukemia you have, how far it has spread and how healthy you are.


Leukemia complications can include decreases or reductions in the level of certain blood components, anemia, infections, swelling of the lungs resulting from chemotherapy and kidney stress.

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