‘Patient Navigators’ Can Help All Women Cope With Breast Cancer Diagnosis, Opinion Piece Says
"There are great racial and socioeconomic disparities that make some women more likely to lose their fight [against breast cancer] than others. This isn't just wrong; it's unthinkable," Hannah Linden and Carey Jackson, both physicians and associate professors of medicine at the University of Washington write in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer opinion piece.
They add, "Beating breast cancer isn't a question of luck," but rather "a matter of diagnosis and proper treatment." They note that delays in seeking and completing necessary medical care can affect the growth and spread of cancer and lead to poorer outcomes and/or increases in treatment cost.
According to Linden and Jackson, "In the best of circumstances, the experience of cancer diagnosis, treatment and survivorship is a gauntlet requiring help from many sources at many points in time." They write that many women who are poor or minorities have not had success in dealing with the health system. They suggest that "patient navigators" can help such women with appointments, paperwork and financial issues, as well as help patients to cope with medication side effects and find other sources of support.
Linden and Jackson note that officials in Washington state are beginning to invest in patient navigation programs, which are "crucial to eliminate breast cancer among all women, regardless of race and economic class."
They conclude, "Economic realities and cultural bias impact whether a woman lives or dies from this disease. But there are culturally competent alternatives. The current barriers to beating breast cancer are neither unique nor insurmountable" (Linden/Jackson, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2/4).