1. What are the responsibilities of a breast cancer navigator?
A breast cancer navigator helps you express your goals and objectives. Then, they’ll help you plan a pathway forward to meet those goals.
Their primary responsibilities are to:
- support you during treatment
- answer questions
- connect you with support services
Some, but not all, of their responsibilities include:
- coordinating your care with the healthcare specialists on your care team
- providing education about the disease, treatments, and available services and resources
- emotional support
- help with financial and insurance-related issues
2. How is a breast cancer navigator different than a nurse or oncologist?
A breast cancer navigator may or may not have a clinical background. They may be a nurse or a lay healthcare professional. They may also have a variety of:
- educational backgrounds
A navigator doesn’t provide medical advice or recommendations. Their primary role is to educate and coordinate services to meet your physical and emotional needs during treatment.
3. Where can I find a breast cancer navigator?
Many large hospitals and community cancer centers will provide a navigator at the time of your diagnosis. But if there isn’t a navigator program where you’re getting treatment, you can find one through a nonprofit or you may choose to hire a private navigator.
A private navigator plays the same role as an institutional navigator. They provide help with logistical, educational, and emotional aspects of your journey.
The American Cancer Society has a patient navigator program. You can call 1-800-227-2345 to get matched with a navigator to support you throughout your diagnosis and treatment.
The National Breast Cancer Foundation also has a patient navigator program. You can find more information here.
4. How will a breast cancer navigator work with the rest of my healthcare team?
A breast cancer navigator is an integral part of your healthcare team. They’ll help you effectively talk with other members of your care team and make it easier to communicate with the healthcare specialists involved in your care.
A breast cancer navigator can often identify barriers to your care as well. They’ll help you overcome them to get the treatment you need as soon as possible.
5. Can an MBC navigator help me find support groups?
Metastatic breast cancer (MBC) isn’t uniform and doesn’t affect everyone the same way.
An MBC navigator will assess your specific needs and connect you with the appropriate resources to meet those needs. If the emotional support of a group is what you desire, they can certainly connect you with one.
6. How can a breast cancer navigator help me with managing treatments and appointments?
A breast cancer navigator can help you schedule and coordinate appointments between healthcare specialists.
If you wish, they can help you prepare for your appointments to maximize your time with other healthcare providers on your team. This can also ensure you receive answers to all your questions and concerns.
In addition, a breast cancer navigator can communicate with the infusion nurses on your behalf. They can help when it comes to side effect management and securing extra support during treatments.
7. Will I be able to communicate with my MBC navigator whenever I need to?
MBC navigators at hospitals and institutions may deal with a large number of patients. Because of this, they can sometimes have limited availability. A private MBC navigator’s communication parameters may also vary.
In my practice, I typically provide access to my clients as needed depending on each individual case.
8. What are the benefits of having an MBC navigator?
Having an MBC navigator ensures you have someone in your corner looking out for your best interests. The benefits you receive may depend on the navigator’s caseload.
A navigator working for a hospital or community cancer center may be managing several cases at one time.
Choosing a private MBC navigator means that they’ll work only for you.
Similar to hiring a private tutor, you’ll benefit by having one-on-one time with a healthcare professional. They’ll help you:
- understand your options
- manage your treatment plan
- connect you with supportive resources
9. How can an MBC navigator help my family too?
Breast cancer navigators have access to a variety of supportive resources for families of women with MBC. After looking at the needs of your family, a navigator will provide educational and supportive resources.
10. Can an MBC navigator help me navigate my healthcare and finances?
The financial burden of cancer can be as much of a side effect to treatment as the physical effects.
An MBC navigator can help you and your family by identifying and connecting you to resources. These resources may include help with insurance, billing, and more.
11. What types of resources will an MBC navigator point me to?
Each individual’s experience is unique. Depending on your needs, an MBC navigator may point you to:
- emotional support services like support groups and peer-to-peer connections
- treatment-related support services, such as resources for side effect management or nutrition help
- financial and insurance resources like insurance advocates or billing specialists
- integrative and complementary medicine resources, such as acupuncture or natural supplements
Dana Hutson is the founder and president of Cancer Champions, LLC, a company that helps individuals and families gain clarity in the confusion of a cancer diagnosis.
She compassionately consults, educates, and facilitates conversations and decisions for individuals and their loved ones as they navigate a complicated healthcare system. Her goal is to empower them to make life-altering decisions with confidence.