Cancer Center: More than a Building

For Release: March 1, 2008
Media Contact: Liat Kobza, Media Relations Coordinator
Phone: (650) 723-1462
Stanford Health Library at the Stanford Cancer Center

Catherine Sleight gets information from the Health Library's Cancer Center branch.

Catherine Sleight, a current patient at Stanford Hospital, remembers when cancer treatment at Stanford meant receiving chemotherapy in a first-floor, windowless room and attending clinic appointments underground. “We called it the bunker,” recalls the 56-year-old Palo Alto resident. “You had to go down the escalators into this place that had no windows. It was so crowded that people were sitting on the coffee tables. Everybody was just so anxious; it was kind of dark, the ceilings were low.”

On her first day of cancer treatment at Stanford Hospital in 2001, Catherine met a dedicated staff working in difficult conditions. “Morale was poor at the time, not because of who they were, but because of the circumstances,” she explains. “The treatment room itself, too many patients, just all of it. My doctor was wonderful, she just had a way of making me feel that we were going to deal with it and that I was in good hands. So the care was wonderful, but the place was just depressing.”

In 2004, the Stanford Cancer Center opened its doors, bringing together all of Stanford Hospital’s 80 cancer specialists, who had been scattered in various locations throughout the medical center. They began working side by side in physical surroundings designed to promote healing in patients. The 218,000 sq. ft. building was the culmination of a decade of planning that involved physicians, staff, patients and the community. Catherine has certainly noticed the difference.

“It was such a morale booster for all of the people who work here. The spaces that are available for different things like classes and support groups,” she marvels. “It’s all air and light, as opposed to feeling like you’re down in the basement of the Hospital. It’s made a huge difference.”

Designed with patients' needs in mind, a soaring atrium at the Center’s entrance greets and uplifts patients, who traverse the wide, bright hallways with a friendly volunteer (called patient navigators) at their side. Simple but thoughtful amenities like valet parking, an on-site pharmacy, café, health library, and Internet-connected computers help make the time spent in the Stanford Cancer Center less stressful and more efficient.

Stanford Cancer Center

“The environment we have created to enhance patient care at the Cancer Center is an example of what will be possible for all our patients at the new Stanford Hospital now being planned,” said SHC President and CEO Martha Marsh. “It shows how the opportunity to combine all that we know about healing environments with breakthroughs in 21st century medicine can significantly improve the experiences of patients, families and the dedicated staff who care for them.”

Encouraging Communication

As the Cancer Center’s patient navigators provide support for people being treated at Stanford Hospital, clinicians work together across specialty areas to provide world class care. The Center’s design includes space for multidisciplinary teams of clinicians, called tumor boards, to meet and discuss a patient’s case. For the Gastrointestinal (GI) Oncology program, that team includes sub-specialists in oncologic and colorectal surgery, radiation and medical oncology, gastroenterology, pathology, diagnostic and interventional radiology, nuclear medicine and genetics. Together they focus their research and clinical skills on preventing, diagnosing and treating the complex group of cancers affecting the gastrointestinal system.

Having a team of medical oncologists, surgeons and radiation oncologists review all the data together with expert guidance from a Stanford pathologist and radiologist prevents the miscommunication that may occur in routine office referrals. Available to any patient who requests them, the weekly conferences with the tumor board foster a continuum of care with seamless transitions from one specialist to another. The meetings also allow newly diagnosed patients and their families to ask questions of each of the relevant specialists at one time. The result is a more personal, comprehensive and expeditious treatment plan for people with GI cancer.

Did You Know?

Colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer and second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. The good news is that screening tests can be done to discover early stage cancers when they’re the most treatable—and curable.

  • There were approximately 52,000 deaths from colorectal cancer in 2007—that’s 1 person every 9 minutes
  • About 153,000 new cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed in 2007—that’s 1 case every 4 minutes
  • Colorectal cancer found in its earliest stage is more than 90% curable
  • Thanks to improved screening, 2,200 fewer deaths from colorectal cancer occurred in 2004 than 2003
  • Because of disproportionate screening rates, African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in advanced stages
  • If all Americans were screened regularly, 25,000 lives could be saved annually

Am I at Risk?

Although the exact cause of most colorectal cancers is unknown, there are some known risk factors. People at a higher risk should be screened more frequently. The earlier colorectal cancer is detected, the better the chances for cure. The following are some risk factors.

Age —The chance of having colorectal cancer goes up after age 50. More than 9 out of 10 people found to have colorectal cancer are older than 50.

History —Your health history might indicate an increased risk for colorectal cancer, including

  • Having had colorectal cancer before
  • Having a history of polyps
  • Having a history of bowel disease
  • A family history of colorectal cancer

Lifestyle —Certain lifestyle factors may increase the risk of colorectal cancer, including

  • High fat diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Overweight
  • Smoking
  • Heavy use of alcohol

For more information about the Stanford Cancer Center’s Concierge Services call (650) 723–4268.

About Stanford Hospital & Clinics
Stanford Hospital & Clinics is known worldwide for advanced treatment of complex disorders in areas such as cardiac care, cancer treatment, neurosciences, surgery, and organ transplants. Ranked #16 on the U.S. News and World Report annual list of “America’s Best Hospitals,” Stanford Hospital & Clinics is internationally recognized for translating medical breakthroughs into the care of patients. The Hospital is part of the Stanford University Medical Center, along with the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. For more information, visit

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