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Cancer Services

We understand that cancer affects an individual more than just physically. That’s why Altru Cancer Center approaches cancer treatment differently. No matter what type of cancer you have, Altru has the capability and expertise to help guide you along the way. We provide education on your treatment options, and approach your treatment in a holistic way through social, emotional, spiritual and financial support with a variety of programs and services.

If you have any questions about our cancer treatment options, please call Altru Cancer Center at 701.780.5400.


The Sanny & Jerry Ryan Center for Prevention & Genetics uses genetic risk assessment to help people understand their risks, prevent, help manage, and, in some cases, reduce the incidence of inherited disease. Currently, genetic assessments and testing options are offered for breast, ovarian endometrial and colorectal cancer.

Genetic Risk Assessment

A cancer risk assessment looks at personal and family risk factors that may put you at higher risk for cancer. Knowing your risk helps you learn what you can do to lower your chances of getting cancer.

Reasons for having a cancer risk assessment include:

  • To understand if cancer runs in your family
  • To learn if cancer has been caused by an inherited genetic change
  • To see if genetic testing will be of value to you or your family
  • To find out your risk for a genetically linked cancer
  • To learn what you can do about your risk for cancer

Genetic Testing

Genetic testing looks for specific inherited changes in a person’s chromosomes, genes, or proteins. These changes are also called mutations. The changes can have harmful, beneficial, neutral (no effect), or uncertain effects on health.

When certain cancers occur frequently in a family, it can be an important preventive step to learn if an inherited gene mutation is apparent. The cancer risks in hereditary cancer families are much higher than the general population, and steps can be taken to prevent these cancers or detect them early.

Who should consider a genetic risk assessment?

Breast and Ovarian Cancer

Personal or Family history of:

  • Breast cancer diagnosed before age 50
  • Ovarian cancer at any age
  • Two breast cancers in same person or same side of the family
  • Male breast cancer at any age
  • Triple negative breast cancer at any age
  • Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
  • Three or more hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC)associated cancers at any age (breast, ovarian, prostate, pancreatic)
  • A previously identified HBOC syndrome mutation in your family

Colorectal Cancer

Personal or Family history of:

  • Colorectal cancer before age 50
  • Endometrial cancer before age 50
  • A previously identified Lynch syndrome gene mutation in the family
  • 2 or more Lynch syndrome cancers at any age
  • Ten or more cumulative colorectal adenomatous polyp(s)
  • A previously identified polyposis syndrome in the family

To schedule an appointment or for more information, call Sanny & Jerry Ryan Center for Prevention & Genetics at 701.732.7620

Resource links:

National Cancer Institute

National Comprehensive Cancer Network

Preventive Measures

Tobacco Cessation

Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialists are available to assist patients who are wanting to quit using any form of tobacco.

What do Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialists do?

  • Work with individuals to develop their own goals and a plan to stop tobacco dependence
  • Meet with patients one on one in a neutral and nonjudgmental setting
  • Prescribe tobacco cessation products when needed
  • Continue to meet with patients until their goals are met
  • Serve as educational resources for organizations, health care providers and the general public regarding tobacco use and treatment options.

Cancer Risk Assessment

Having a family history of cancer may mean that you are genetically predisposed to cancer. However, this does not mean that you are certain to develop cancer or pass it on to your children. Only about five to ten percent of cancers are linked to inherited genetics. The Cancer Risk Assessment will review your family and personal history of cancer and determine the indication for genetic testing. Programs are available for patients who have any of the following risk factors:

  • A personal or family history of breast cancer prior to age 50
  • A personal or family history of ovarian cancer at any age
  • Multiple primary breast cancers - breast and ovarian cancer, or bilateral breast cancer in the same individual
  • Male breast cancer at any age
  • A family history of confirmed BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutations
  • Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
  • Certain types of colon cancer

To set up an assessment, please call Altru Cancer Center at 701.780.5400.

Early Detection

The best way to treat cancer is to catch it early. Early detection means a better prognosis and helps prevent cancer from spreading to other parts of the body. We offer a variety of services that can detect and help diagnose cancer in its early stages.

Altru Cancer Center features the innovative GE Discovery STE scanner, a top-of-the-line device that addresses the growing needs of healthcare. While positron emission tomography (PET) provides metabolic imaging, computed tomography (CT) provides anatomically precise images. The Discovery STE produces a single image that combines both. The Discovery STE is beneficial because:

  • It allows for early detection of cancer, which in many cases means better prognosis
  • Instead of two or more exams, patients receive one that usually takes less than an hour
  • Patients can potentially avoid painful, invasive procedures like biopsies
  • It determines the precise location of suspicious activity and differentiates between malignant and benign growths
  • It accounts for organ and tumor movement when making treatment decisions
  • It allows doctors to monitor a patient during treatment, so, if necessary, they can adjust the treatment plan before it is actually completed

The Breast Imaging Program at Altru offers quality mammography services for women of all ages and needs. Mammograms are the most effective screening method currently available for breast cancer detection. Our mammography services include:

  • Breast cancer screening mammography
  • Diagnostic imaging (mammography and ultrasonography)
  • Breast needle localization

Your complete mammogram screening will include:

  • An assessment of your breast cancer risk, including your personal, family and medical history
  • An interpretation of the mammogram by an Altru radiologist
  • Our ImageChecker® computer-aided detection system that helps radiologists minimize false negatives and assist in early detection
  • A written report sent to your primary care provider
  • A letter sent to your home concerning the mammogram's results

Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test
Measuring the amount of PSA in the blood allows for early detection of prostate cancer. A PSA test:

  • Involves a quick, simple blood draw from the arm
  • Should be performed on men at high risk starting at age 50, or earlier if they have a family history of prostate cancer
  • Can also be used to measure the effectiveness of prostate cancer treatment

For more information about any of our early detection services, please call Altru Cancer Center at 701.780.5400.

Lung Cancer Screening

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for men and women in the United States. Today, new research shows that low-dose CT (LDCT) screening can detect lung cancer in its earliest and most treatable stages.


The Lung Cancer screening program at Altru Health System provides an assessment of lung cancer risk and low-dose lung CT for those who are at high risk for developing lung cancer. This program provides individualized, evidenced based care based on the results from the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial (NLST) and years of clinical research. Benefits and potential risks of screening are discussed during your consultation. In addition, a smoking cessation program is offered for current smokers. This program offers management recommendations of any findings and continuity of care, as well as ongoing monitoring.

Who is eligible for the screening?

  • Individuals between the ages of 55-74 who are current or former smokers
  • Individuals who have smoked 30 or more pack years (the number of years smoked multiplied by the number of packs per day)
  • Former smokers who quit within the last 15 years

Initial consultation and follow up:

On the day of your first appointment, you will meet with a nurse practitioner who will review your history and risks of lung cancer. If you are eligible, you will be scheduled for a low-dose CT scan. A radiologist will review the CT scan for abnormalities. The nurse practitioner will call you to explain the results and discuss any findings and appropriate follow up (if any).

Most insurance companies now pay for screening CT scans if patients meet criteria listed above. If your company does not cover the cost, there may be scholarships available to cover part of all of the cost.

Resource links:

NCCN Guidelines for Patients

Screening for Lung Cancer

Screening and Testing to Detect Lung Cancer

For additional information call Altru Cancer Center at 701.780.5400.

Cancer Survivorship

Cancer survivorship is recognized as a distinct aspect of the cancer care continuum. The number of cancer survivors has been steadily increasing over the past four decades due to earlier detection, more accurate diagnoses, more effective treatments, and improved clinical follow-ups. The American Cancer Society estimates that 13.7 million cancer survivors are currently living in the United States and that number continues to grow. It is estimated that nearly 18 million survivors will be living in the United States by 2022. For this reason and due to the unique needs of this population with transitioning to a “new normal” after diagnosis and treatment, The Commission on Cancer (CoC) standards released new guidelines that mandate patients being treated with curative intent be provided with a comprehensive care summary and follow-up plan that is clearly and effectively explained.

Who is a cancer survivor?

An individual is considered a cancer survivor from the time of diagnosis.

Survivorship Care Plan

Survivorship care plans are prepared by an Advanced Practice Provider. It promotes patient understanding of their diagnosis, treatment, survivorship care, and health promotion. Survivorship care plans are individualized and include information such as:

  • Summary of the patient’s diagnosis including stage, grade, hormone status and biomarker results
  • Summary of the patient’s treatment course (surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormone, gene therapy, etc.) and any complications that were experienced

A brief outline of evidenced based follow up care may consist of the following:

  • Possible short term and long term side effects from the cancer treatment
  • Information on recommended follow up visits and tests
  • Signs and symptoms of cancer recurrence or secondary malignancy
  • Promotion of physical and mental wellness
  • Cancer related resources online and in the community

Patients will meet with an Advanced Practice Provider at the end of their treatment course. The survivorship care plan will be discussed in detail and a copy will be sent home with the patient. A copy will also be sent to the patient’s primary care provider.


Recommended Reading Available for check out at the
Cancer Center Library

  • The Survivorship Net by Jim Owens
  • Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book by Susan Love
  • Uplift by Barbara Delinsky
  • Living Well Beyond Breast Cancer by Marisa Weiss and Ellen Weiss
  • Cancervive: The Challenge of Life after Cancer by Nessim and Ellis
  • It’s not about the Bike: My journey back to life by Lance Armstrong

Radiation Oncology

Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, is the use of radiation to safely and effectively treat cancer. The goal of radiation therapy is to treat cancer without harming surrounding organs and tissue, thus maintaining the patient's quality of life.

Radiation therapy:

  • Can be used to cure cancer, control the growth of cancer, or relieve cancer symptoms
  • Can be applied externally on an outpatient basis
  • Can be applied internally (brachytherapy), in which radiation is sealed within needles, seeds, wires or catheters and placed directly in or near the tumor

We provide a variety of radiation therapy treatments.

External Beam Radiation:

  • Combines several technologies to deliver radiation in a unique spiral pattern at up to 360 degrees, able to adjust to match each patient's unique anatomy
  • Allows simple, effective adjustment to the treatment plan as the tumor changes and shrinks during treatment
  • Minimizes the risk of damaging healthy tissue and reduces the common side effects of radiation treatments
  • Provides safe treatment in highly sensitive areas, like the brain, spinal cord and areas around the heart
  • With TomoDirect, planning and treatment time is significantly reduced due to fewer treatment beams.

To learn more about TomoTherapy, watch one of the videos below. You can also call us at 701.780.5860.

External Beam Radiation:

  • Is most often given as a series of outpatient treatments, typically five days a week
  • Allows many patients to continue normal daily activities, such as work or school
  • Directs radiation from a machine to a patient lying on the treatment table
  • Takes only a few minutes and does not cause any physical sensation for the patient

3-D Conformal Treatment Planning:

  • Is created by certified medical dosimetrists working collaboratively with physicians

  • Provides a three-dimensional reconstruction of the tumor and the surrounding healthy tissue
  • Allows custom radiation treatment for each patient
  • Allows for more precision in aiming the radiation at the tumor
  • Can be used in conjunction with PET/CT scans to provide the best care

Intensely Modulated Radiation Therapy/Volumetric Arc Therapy:

  • With 3-D Conformal Treatment Planning, allows physicians to deliver higher doses of radiation to the tumor while minimizing healthy tissue damage and side effects

Accelerated Partial Breast Irradiation:

  • Is given on an outpatient basis and can be completed in five days
  • Is effective in treating patients with early stage breast cancer
  • Is given after surgery and uses a small balloon catheter to deliver radiation inside the breast, where cancer is most likely to recur
  • Limits the exposure of radiation to healthy tissue, reducing the potential for side effects

At Altru we use the Contura multi-lumen system. The Contura system allows us to protect skin, rib, lung, and heart tissue more effectively.

High-Dose Rate Brachytherapy (HDR):

  • Delivers radiation in the patient at or near the tumor site
  • Can be used on almost any part of the body but is primarily used for prostate, breast, gynecologic, skin, sarcomas, and other related indications.
  • Can be used as either the sole treatment or in conjunction with external beam radiation
  • Can deliver the treatment in just a few minutes, as opposed to the 24 to 120 hours of Low-Dose Rate Brachytherapy
  • Can be applied internally, in which radiation is remotely inserted by a computerized robotic system into previously implanted catheters delivering highly focused radiation directly into the tumor and targeted regional tissues.

Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (SIRT)

  • Is a radiation oncology treatment for patients with inoperable metastatic liver cancer
  • Introduces yttrium-90 containing SIR-Spheres microspheres* into the liver via a catheter.
  • Side effects are generally fewer than with alternative treatments
  • Is administered on an outpatient basis

*SIR-Spheres microspheres irradiate the cancer cells, leading to the destruction of the tumor while the normal liver tissue remains relatively unaffected

Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) & Stereotactic Radiation Surgery (SRS)

  • This technique delivers very high doses of therapeutic radiation to a highly selective group of patients with isolated small tumors in the lung and liver.
  • This technique can decrease the treatment course from approximately 35 treatments to 1-5 treatments with similar, to potentially improved, outcomes.

At Altru we use 4D-CT scanning equipment with respiratory motion management to accurately plan for tumors that move during regular breathing.

Medical Oncology

At Altru Cancer Center, our medical oncologists provide expert care in the fields of chemotherapy, hormone therapy and biologic therapy. These treatments can be used alongside surgery and radiation therapy to combat cancer. Our medical oncology staff reviews and monitors each patient on an individual basis to provide them with a personalized and effective treatment plan.


Chemotherapy medications are administered by chemotherapy trained nurses under the direction of the Medical Oncologists.

Chemotherapy medication:

  • Is usually provided on an outpatient basis
  • Is most often administered intravenously
  • Can also be administered in pill form, by intraperitoneal infusion (infused directly into the abdominal cavity through a catheter) or through a small pump over several days.

Chemotherapy may be used at different times with different goals:

  • Adjuvant - administered after other primary therapy when there are no signs of cancer present, in order to reduce the risk of recurrence
  • Neo-adjuvant - administered before other primary therapy (usually surgery) in order to make the cancer easier to remove and to reduce the risk of recurrence
  • Radiosensitizing - given in conjunction with radiation therapy, in order to boost the effects of the radiation therapy

Some other types of oncological cancer treatment include:

  • Hormone therapy - natural substances that inhibit the growth of some types of cancer, usually given in pill form
  • Biologic therapy - some of the newest cancer treatment options that stimulate the body's immune system to fight infection and disease

For more information about our medical oncology treatment options, please call Altru Cancer Center at 701.780.5400.

Palliative Care

Palliative care is provided in addition to a patient's curative treatments. While the curative treatments focus on eliminating the cancer, the goal of palliative care is to provide relief from the emotional and physical toll of cancer.

Palliative care:

  • Provides management of pain and other physical symptoms and side effects
  • Means helping you understand your options and make decisions about quality of life
  • Manages lifestyle goals around new physical limits
  • Promotes well-being and peace of mind
  • Helps the patient and their loved ones deal with issues if and when they arise
  • Encourages reflection, repairing of relationships and creating new memories

For more information regarding palliative care, please call us at 701.780.5442.


Ask about our Regional Oncology Care at 701.780.5400.

North Dakota

Altru's Specialty Care | Cavalier 701.265.8338

Altru Clinic | Devils Lake 701.665.5247

Cavalier County Memorial | Langdon 701.780.2400

First Care Health Center | Park River 701.780.2400

Unity Medical Center | Grafton 701.352.1620


Altru Clinic | Crookston 218.281.9100

Altru Clinic | Roseau 218.463.1365

North Valley Health Center | Warren 218.745.4211

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