LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 16, 2011) — After a diagnosis of cancer, many patients have concerns beyond the clinical side of their disease. The daily challenges of living with cancer — from issues with transportation, finances and emotional support — often come into play.
The University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center is helping cancer patients and their families with the launch of the state's first American Cancer Society Patient Navigator Program, made possible with support from AstraZeneca.
The process of gathering and understanding cancer information and resources can be overwhelming and exhausting, especially for patients who need to focus their energies on healing. A patient navigator provides one-on-one assistance to patients, families and caregivers as they navigate the complex health care system.
The overall goal, says American Cancer Society patient navigator Melanie Wilson, is to improve the quality of life for cancer patients, survivors and their caregivers.
"I hope that by referring patients to the services they need throughout treatment, I’ve made life a little easier for them," said Wilson. "Cancer treatment alone is stressful enough — patients shouldn't have to worry about figuring out what resources are available."
Dr. Mark Evers, director of the Markey Cancer Center, says the patient navigator program is an evolution of Markey's relationship with the American Cancer Society.
"We are extremely excited to have an American Cancer Society Patient Navigator Program at Markey," said Evers. "We have a longstanding relationship with the Society, and the patient navigator program is one more way we can partner to benefit patients in our community."
As Markey's patient navigator, Wilson will be available to help patients find resources for a variety of needs. After a diagnosis, patients may want to seek information on the following:
Transportation, lodging and campus navigation. Patients at Markey come from all over the state and beyond. For many, simply getting to and from each appointment can be a problem. Resources are available to aid with traveling and lodging through the Society's Road to Recovery® and Hope Lodge® programs.
Coping strategies. Cancer treatment is a stressful time for both the patient, family and caregivers. Emotional support is available through a wide variety of programs. Complementary therapies such as Jin Shin Jyutsu® are also available to help relieve stress and worry in patients.
Appearance-related needs. Many patients will want to use prostheses, bras, hats, or wigs to cope with the effects of treatment. Wilson can guide patients to local resources for these items or to programs such as the the Society's Look Good…Feel Better® program.
Financial assistance. There's more than just the possible costs of treatment to consider -- many patients may struggle to pay their bills at home. Some patients may qualify for financial assistance with bill paying during treatment.
Information on cancer types and treatment options. Educated patients feel more empowered in their care. Wilson can provide appropriate literature on diagnosis, treatment, prevention and end of life care, as well as information on the Society's free clinical trials matching service.
Wilson will be there every step of the way for Markey patients — from initial diagnosis through treatment and survivorship.
"I want patients to know that they're not alone in this journey," she said. "I'm here whenever they need help, and I'll do whatever I can to make the treatment process less of a burden."
By easing some of the stress, the American Cancer Society Patient Navigator Program will make an impact on patient health, Evers said.
"The patient navigator is a key part of the overall well being of our patients," Evers said. "Many come from great distances, and anything we can offer to make their experience better during an extremely difficult time will be one less hurdle they need to overcome."
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