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News » Filed under: ACS Programs and Services

'Patient Navigator' Serves As Guide On Cancer Journey

Article date: January 25, 2008

After 30 years of teaching 3rd grade in suburban Birmingham, Ala., Louise Price McCleery knows something about how to settle first-day jitters and soothe family anxieties. And after 9 years of caring for her mother as she battled non-Hodgkin lymphoma, she completely understands the emotional, financial, and bureaucratic challenges facing cancer patients and their families.

Both skill sets come into play in her new job with the American Cancer Society. As a patient navigator based at the University of Alabama-Birmingham's Comprehensive Cancer Center, McCleery helps cancer patients and caregivers in her community get through the cancer experience. The form that help takes is individualized depending on the needs of that particular person, and includes such things as arranging transportation to and from treatment, providing referrals to physical therapy or nutrition counseling services, and pointing people toward appropriate financial assistance programs.

Navigator services are free and confidential and place an emphasis on assisting the medically underserved -- those who are without insurance, for instance, or on Medicaid. providing referrals to local services like physical therapy or nutrition counseling, or finding information on financial assistance programs.

An Opportunity to Educate

"A cancer diagnosis can be a life-changing experience for patients, their families, and their caregivers," said Carlette Hines, director of survivorship for the Society's Mid-South Division. "Our patient navigators are able to provide support every step of the way, from explaining what to expect with chemotherapy to making sure patients have transportation to and from appointments. Fighting cancer is a difficult, challenging journey; with the help of trained navigators, patients don't have to go through it alone."

And cancer is a journey, McCleery stresses. During her mother's long struggle with cancer, they both learned that although a diagnosis is the beginning of something very difficult, it does not have to be the end of anything. It can be an opportunity to educate children about a serious illness like cancer, something the teacher in McCleery could not let pass. And it can even be blessing, as her mother learned each time she opened a heart-felt, hand-drawn card from another Mountain Brook Elementary School 8-year-old. 

Navigator Program in Major Expansion

The Society's Patient Navigator Program, which launched in 2005, is in the midst of a major expansion. Thanks to a $10-million gift from drug maker AstraZeneca, 50 new Patient Navigator Program sites -- including the one at UAB -- will open over a 5-year period. There are currently 87 sites nationwide. In addition, AstraZeneca employees will distribute information about the Patient Navigator Program to the health-care workers they deal with.

"AstraZeneca is committed to improving health and quality of life in the communities where our employees work and live, and is proud to be the first corporation to provide nationwide, large-scale support for the American Cancer Society Patient Navigator Program," said Lisa Schoenberg, vice-president of Specialty Care, AstraZeneca LP. "Together, the American Cancer Society and AstraZeneca are committed to personalizing cancer care and ultimately supporting improved patient outcomes."

For more information about the American Cancer Society Patient Navigator Program, call 1-800-ACS-2345.


Reviewed by: Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff

ACS News Center stories are provided as a source of cancer-related news and are not intended to be used as press releases.

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