An exploration of the oncology patient navigator role: perspectives of younger women with breast cancer
Pedersen, Allison E.
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Background: One in nine Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer within their lifetime. In Manitoba, an estimated 810 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, with approximately 160 of those aged 20 to 50. Younger women diagnosed with breast cancer may have unique needs and challenges due to a variety of factors that include caring for younger children, career demands, or in some cases, family planning. Many women face a heightened sense of vulnerability after their diagnosis which challenges their physical, emotional, and spiritual self as they attempt to navigate through the complexities of the health care system. One approach to alleviate health care systemic challenges has been the establishment of patient navigation programs. To date, the role of the oncology patient navigator has not been examined from the perspectives of patients experiencing the oncology system of care without the services of an established patient navigator. Method: Consistent with the purpose of this study, an interpretive, descriptive qualitative research approach was utilized to describe the role of the oncology patient navigator from the perspectives of younger women aged 20-50 (n=12) diagnosed with an invasive breast cancer within the last three years. Face-to-face interviews were conducted and audio-taped to capture their descriptions of the oncology patient navigator based on their own experiences. Results: The role of the oncology patient navigator includes two facets - personal attributes and essential processual needs – for which the navigator could provide assistance. Conclusion: The results of this study depict the oncology patient navigator’s vital attributes and processual facets based on the perspectives of younger women with breast cancer. This study can be utilized for the purposes of tailoring or expanding current roles in oncology or perhaps cultivating the development of new navigational programs to address the needs of younger women with breast cancer.