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Cancer Awareness

Breast Health

Patient Service Helps Spot Cancer Early

Early diagnosis is crucial in fighting breast cancer. It often leads to faster treatment and a better chance of survival. That's where a service called "patient navigation" may fit in. A recent study shows this service may shorten the time to diagnosis.

Photo of woman talking with her doctor

How patient navigation works

Patient navigation can help you cope with an illness such as breast cancer. The main feature of the service is the patient navigator. Navigators are people who are on hand to answer any health-care related questions. They often schedule doctor appointments for patients. They also help patients handle issues like a lack of insurance or child-care needs. The navigator basically assists patients with their care.

"Navigators follow up with women and encourage them to go on for additional tests until they get an answer either one way or the other," says study author Heather Hoffman, Ph.D., at George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. "With help, many women are able to move forward to get the care they need."

Findings encourage service use

For the study, researchers enrolled more than 2,600 women who had suspicious breast lumps. About 40 percent of those women spoke with a patient navigator. Doctors gave the remainder of the women only standard advice about follow-up care. The women with patient navigators had their breast lumps diagnosed four times sooner.

The benefits of patient navigation included:

  • The average diagnosis time for women with patient navigators was 25 days compared with 42 days for women who did not use the service.

  • For women who needed a biopsy, the diagnosis time was more than doubled for those without a patient navigator.

  • Uninsured patients got a quicker diagnosis if they had a patient navigator. Those without insurance usually have the most trouble finding care.

"The time savings really paid off for the women in this study," Dr. Hoffman says. "A quicker diagnosis of breast cancer often translates to faster treatment and might give women a better shot at survival."

The study was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

American Cancer Society - Find Support Programs and Services in Your Area

National Cancer Institute - What Are Patient Navigators?

December 2012

Strategies for Reducing Breast Cancer Risk

According to the American Cancer Society, several lifestyle factors have been found to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. Here are several ways you can cut your risk:

  • Cut down or quit drinking alcohol, if you drink. Women who drink about two to five alcoholic drinks a day have a 1.5 greater risk of developing breast cancer than women who don't drink alcohol.

  • Manage your weight. Postmenopausal women who are overweight or obese have an increased risk for breast cancer. When the excess weight was gained - in childhood vs. adulthood - may affect your degree of risk.

  • Get active. The National Cancer Institute says that exercising four or more hours a week may lower your risk by dropping hormone levels.

  • Breastfeed your infant. Breastfeeding helps keep your estrogen levels low.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

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