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New nurses can be breast cancer patients’ GPS

The Seattle Times/McClatchy, October 12, 2011

With advances in cancer treatment, patients face far more complex decisions today than the past. As a result, hospitals across the country are hiring nurses or other professionals to help patients navigate their way through the medical system. The job of a navigator is not only to explain breast cancer, answer questions and arrange doctors' appointments, but also to counsel patients through the terror of a cancer diagnosis, show them how they can survive it, and guide them through their journey. There is no extra charge for the service. It's part of the health care package. Barbara LiPira, vice president of oncology services at Presbyterian Cancer Center in Charlotte, NC, said it's worth the cost. "It's more than a feel-good program," she said. "It's a better way to care for patients." Patient navigation started in 1990 at Harlem Hospital Center in New York, where Dr. Harold Freeman hoped to reduce health disparities by improving access to cancer screening and reducing barriers faced by low-income, African-American women.