Our risk for many health issues – including cancer – increases with age. As we get older, medical appointments and check-ups frequently involve screenings for cancer, and adults over 66 receive more than half of all cancer diagnoses. While even the word can be scary for some, patients diagnosed with cancer don’t have to go through it alone.
WL Nugent Cancer Center offers a range of support and resources for patients dealing with cancer. One important feature of our service is the involvement of an oncology navigator, a professional who can guide patients through the healthcare system, from screening and follow-up through diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship.
Since 2012, KRMC’s breast health navigator has accompanied patients through screening and diagnosis of breast cancer. This program has successfully helped countless patients in trying times.
Now, KRMC has expanded its oncology services, adding two more navigators to the staff at WL Nugent Cancer Center, including a lung health navigator and a general oncology navigator. Our navigators have obtained master’s degrees in social work or are registered nurses with experience providing oncology care.
Start-to-Finish Oncology Care
Patients who may benefit from navigator services are screened within KRMC’s health system or referred by their doctor. Patients can choose to opt in or opt out of the oncology navigator program. Our navigators are here to guide patients through every stage of oncology care, from screening to survivorship.
- Screening: Many tests are available to detect cancer in individuals with no apparent symptoms. Age, family history, and other risk factors determine which screenings are recommended. Regular screenings can help catch cancer in its earliest stages when treatment is most likely to be successful. An oncology navigator helps a patient stay current with the appropriate screenings and follow up as needed, so any early cancer can be detected.
- Diagnosis: If an imaging or lab test is abnormal, a doctor will take a small sample of tissue, or a biopsy from the body. A pathologist will study slides made from the sample to determine a diagnosis. If cancer is detected, a navigator can help with the next steps and offer resources to support the patient’s needs.
- Treatment: Many different treatment options exists for cancer patients, from surgeries to radiation, to medical treatments like chemotherapy. Sometimes, patients will undergo a combination of all these. Our patients can rely on their oncology navigators to answer questions, help with scheduling, look for financial assistance programs, and otherwise support their needs throughout the treatment stage.
- Survivorship: Cancer survivorship is living with, through, and after cancer. Once a patient completes treatment, our oncology navigators will help to create a survivorship care plan for their recovery. This plan includes a treatment summary, standards for follow-up care, and strategies to maintain your health.
Our Commitment to Continuous Improvement
Cancer care is complex and can be overwhelming, even for patients with a strong support system. Brandee Dixon is a social worker and certified breast health navigator who has guided KRMC’s breast health patients for nearly three years. She says her role has made a significant impact on the patients she’s worked with, and she’s proud of the care she and her colleagues provide.
“Our breast health program in rural Kingman can rival that of anywhere in the state,” said Dixon. Indeed, patients from throughout the region frequently come to WL Nugent Cancer Center for oncology care.
“Expanding this program is an amazing step in improving the continuum of care,” said Dixon. Cancer navigators are associated with better outcomes and higher satisfaction for patients. When oncology navigators are involved, more patients complete the cancer screenings and receive the follow-up care they require.
One study has shown that working with a patient navigator can even help shorten time from abnormal findings to diagnosis. This timely care can make a big difference for cancer patients, who fare better with earlier treatment.
“We are constantly looking at new ways to ensure our patients get the service they need when they need it,” said Meagan Flummer, director of the WL Nugent Cancer Center. “We want our patients to feel confident in the quality of care they’re getting here.”
For more information, visit the WL Nugent Cancer Center online.