Methodist Healthcare - June 04, 2022

A common misconception about the term ‘cancer survivor’ is that it only pertains to a person who was diagnosed with cancer and no longer has it. However, what some may not understand is that survivorship starts at diagnosis. A person is a cancer survivor if they have ever been diagnosed with cancer no matter where they are in their cancer journey.

A vital role in survivorship comes from the support and guidance of nurse navigators. Methodist Healthcare works together with Sarah Cannon, the Cancer Institute of HCA Healthcare, to provide highly skilled, compassionate nurse navigators to support patients as they go through the many stages of living with cancer. To list a few areas of support, nurse navigators help reinforce education on cancer types, treatments, and clinical trial availability.

Breast Cancer Nurse Navigator, Pam Kuhlmey explains how navigators offer support from the very beginning. “As a navigator we connect with patients soon after diagnosis and help them to understand their diagnosis and treatment. I often tell them it is like learning a new language. We help them understand the role of each physician and ensure compliance with these visits,” says Kuhlmey.

Beyond understanding their diagnosis and treatment, Nicola Stewart, Complex GI Cancer Nurse Navigator says how important the efficiency can be with the help of nurse navigators. “Understanding the barriers and assisting patients get to where they need to go has been a huge win in navigation. A patient may spend up to an hour on the phone waiting on hold to get an appointment or ask a question. A navigator can help expedite that process,” explains Stewart.

The emotional weight a cancer diagnosis brings is complicated enough, and it can become daunting trying to understand what your next steps are for treatment and care. Having a navigator to guide you through this entire process can make your journey feel possible.

“When a patient is diagnosed with cancer it is totally overwhelming. It is estimated that cancer patients only retain about 49% of the information given them in that first visit. Not only just taking in the diagnosis of cancer, but understanding the terms, diagnostic tests, treatments and financial aspects,” says Kuhlmey.

The emotional support navigators offer is equally important to the physical support and understanding of treatment and diagnosis.

“As a navigator as we check in with patients we help them through the emotional journey as well. Often times patients will share fears and concerns with their navigator that they wouldn’t with family. Through consistent contact and support we guide them through the process. This support lessens their anxiety as well as increasing their understanding of their diagnosis and treatment,” Kuhlmey says.

Stewart explains how navigators can help find solutions to issues that onset stress, “One of the biggest stressors of a cancer diagnosis is financial cost, the navigator can help assist the patient in applying for funding too.”

For more information about our cancer care services, please call askSARAH at (210) 507-0941.

On top of patient satisfaction, studies have shown navigation to contribute to clinical benefits including increased screening rates, improved stage at diagnosis, lower broken appointment rates and more timely follow up. “Navigation empowers patients to actively participate in their cancer journey. With understanding and support they tolerate treatments better and are more compliant,” according to Kuhlmey.

Having the most robust nurse navigation program in the region, Methodist Healthcare offers navigation for multiple tumor sites including breast, colorectal, complex GI, head and neck, hematology, gynecology, and lung.