July 3, 2013

A cancer diagnosis is scary enough for most people. Other concerns pop up when patients are presented with treatment options, how they're going to get to appointments and the cost of care.

That's why CAMC started a navigator program in 2010. Navigators at the David Lee Cancer Center and CAMC Breast Center help patients through all parts of their disease.

Now the program is adding navigators and a survivorship program to assist with more types of cancer and to work with survivors as they transition back to life after cancer.

Additional nurse navigators are being hired in 2013 and 2014 to cover lung, prostate and gynecological cancers.

The nurse practitioner in charge of the new survivorship program will see patients after they have completed treatment to address patient safety issues.

"Even though cancer treatment is complete, the patient may have unresolved issues that will be ongoing," said Jo Thomas, RN, BSN, OCN, CNIV. "During a visit a record of all care will be given to the patient (diagnostic tests and results, tumor characteristics, dates of treatment, surgeries, radiation therapy, treatment response, toxicities). Also at this visit, healthy behaviors and preventative practices will be discussed."

The number of cancer survivors in the U.S. has grown from 3 million to over 12 million in the past 35 years. Cancer survivorship is not a new concept to cancer patients or care providers, but the process of providing a comprehensive survivorship program is new.

A major concern of cancer survivors is reoccurrence of the cancer. Patients will be educated and made aware of when/how often cancer screenings will be done and what to look for in reoccurrence. All of this information will also be sent to the patient's primary care physician.

"Navigation has been beneficial at the cancer center because it has allowed us to reach out to our patients even before they ever step foot in to the David Lee Cancer Center for their first appointment," said Sarah Huff, colorectal patient navigator. "Being a navigator allows me to inform patients that there is someone available to them that can answer questions, help with issues that may affect their treatment/care, or even fill out paperwork. I truly believe that patients feel a little bit more comfortable when they know they have someone to call even before they arrive for the first visit. Patients also seem grateful when I introduce myself in person, so that way they can put a name with a face. I also believe that patients appreciate the fact that the cancer center takes an active role in their care and want to assure them that they are more than just another number."

"The patient navigation program also allows navigators to follow the patient through the continuum of care," Beverly Farmer, office manager, David Lee Cancer Center. "Navigators are able to focus on the fine details of patient care that may get overlooked."

Patients may need help with transportation, financial problems or questions related to appointments or treatment. The navigator is the "go to person" for just about any problem.

"I want to provide assistance to patients and their families that will make a difference in their experience in the cancer care and health care system. We want patients to be comfortable with their care that is close to home," said Amy Beaver, breast cancer navigator.

Navigation is meant to save lives through outreach, education, eliminating barriers and assuring care is delivered in a timely manner.

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