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Helping patients and physicians navigate breast cancer care

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Breast cancer diagnosis and treatment is a journey with many complex decisions and time-sensitive issues for patients and their physicians. Virtua’s breast cancer navigation system was created from the ground up to address these issues, using advanced business tools such as Six Sigma and Lean. Lisa Shalkowski, RN, BSN, director of Virtua’s breast care program explains: “In planning the navigation program, we first surveyed physicians, patients, and their caregivers to understand the voice of the customer – the breast cancer patient and clinical provider – and then, designed the program based on our customers’ preferences.”

The breast navigation program offers two levels of care and resources: An access navigator guides a woman with an abnormal mammogram or a suspicious lump through the initial detection to diagnosis. Once diagnosed, a woman can opt to work with an oncology nurse navigator, who walks her through the entire treatment process and into post-treatment. Eric Miller, MD, a Fox Chase Virtua Health Cancer Program breast surgeon, relies on the navigation system “to act as a liaison between physician
and patient, and, between the patient and all other breast cancer services.”

“This is essential to the continuum of care and occurs within the Virtua system,” observes Thomas Kay, MD, Virtua OB/GYN. An access navigator can expedite appointments with specialists, work within someone’s insurance considerations, and support patients so they feel less burdened.

Once a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer her nurse navigator provides the patient with ongoing information and assistance in carrying out required medical protocols while offering practical and emotional assistance. With psychosocial support and education, patients are empowered to ask their physicians the right questions, gain perspective about their illness, and understand they are not alone. And support doesn’t end when treatment ends. When patients complete treatment, they receive a survivorship plan and are placed into surveillance. Virtua is right there to provide any type of support a patient may need both during treatment and post treatment.

To refer a patient to Virtua’s Breast Cancer Navigation Program, call 1-888-Virtua-3.