Patient Navigation May Improve Breast Cancer Care, Study Says

Women who are assisted by 'navigators' are more likely to receive recommended treatment.

Patient navigation may improve care for high risk and minority women with breast cancer, according to a new study from Boston Medical Center (BMC). The national study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, is the first to establish a correlation between patient navigation and “the initiation of certain recommended treatments in breast cancer.”

According to a BMC report, patient navigation connects newly diagnosed cancer patients with a professional “navigator” or advocate who provides assistance throughout the treatment process. Navigators are trained to help patients handle monetary and transportation issues, language barriers, and more.

In the new BMC study, researchers found that breast cancer patients who used patient navigation services were more likely to receive recommended treatments like hormonal therapy than those who did not. These results were determined by an analysis of data from a previously published study on women who participated in the Patient Navigation Research Program which, according to the program’s website, “aims to develop innovative patient navigation interventions to reduce or eliminate cancer health disparities and test their efficacy and cost-effectiveness.”

“This study gave us a glimpse of the potential benefit of patient navigation but there’s a lot more research to be done. At this point we still need to understand how or why patient navigation works,” BMC oncologist and the study’s lead author Naomi Ko said in a statement. “Understanding where patient navigation is most beneficial in cancer care, in order to help the neediest patients, is a rich topic for future research.”