In a recent profile appearing in Woman’s Day, breast cancer survivor Jessica Lavery Murphy extolled the virtues of using the services of a breast cancer patient navigator:
I wasn’t qualified to make these medical decisions, and I needed someone to talk me through it — someone who was in my corner, who could connect me with the right resources, who could help me be my own best advocate.
Murphy’s breast cancer patient navigator, Nanna Bo Christensen, helped Jessica understand the treatment options available to her, handle some of the administrative tasks that come with such a diagnosis, and — perhaps most importantly — serve as a provider of emotional support during turbulent, uncertain times:
Sometimes women are so overwhelmed, they didn’t hear anything besides, ‘You have breast cancer,’ and they’re frozen in that moment. I ask them what, exactly, they heard the doctor say, and help clarify any misunderstandings. Sometimes women learn [they have breast cancer] when they’re on their cell phone in the grocery store, driving, or at work, and they are not in a place to ask any questions. We also coordinate appointments; a patient can quickly have four doctors she needs to see within a week, and that can be confusing. I coordinate it all, which relieves some of the stress. We keep the doctors connected, and we support patients emotionally.
Marc Hurlbert, PhD, the chief mission officer for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, explains why breast cancer patient navigation is so effective:
Patients with navigators feel they have a higher quality of life, they feel more empowered to ask questions they thought were embarrassing, and they feel like they have an advocate.