Helping people access doctors may save more lives from cancer is the conclusion of a study released today.
George Washington researchers published results of a study that found patient navigation sped the diagnosis of breast cancer. The results indicate that patient navigation is meeting its purpose to help patients more quickly receive their cancer diagnosis and then enter treatment. Patient navigation removes diverse barriers to care such as making appointments, arranging transportation, and fear of a cancer diagnosis.
The study included 2,601 women,1,047 of whom were navigated and 1,554 concurrently matched controls, who were all examined for breast cancer from 2006 to 2010 at 9 hospitals or clinics in Washington, D.C. Women, who received navigation services had a more rapid speed from time of finding a suspicious breast lump to cancer diagnosis. Women with navigation received their cancer diagnosis in four times less time than women without navigation.
Heather Hoffman, Ph.D, lead author and associate professor at George Washington University, made a statement about the results:
The time savings really paid off for the women in this study. A quicker diagnosis of breast cancer often translates to faster treatment and might give women a better shot at survival.
Excluding melanoma, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, with about 220,000 women diagnosedand 40,000 women die each year in the United States. Early detection and treatment is key to improved survival. Cancer that has smaller, localized tumors generally have greater chances for survival than cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes. On average, survival rates are better for smaller and more localized tumors.
Patient navigation was first introduced by physician Harold Freeman at Harlem Hospital Center in 1990. Dr. Freeman pioneered the approach to low-income patients more rapidly access cancer screening and treatment. Since then,patient navigation strategies have been widely adopted by hospitals and centers that provide cancer care.
The American College of Surgeon’s Commission on Cancer (C0C) added patient navigation as a mandatory standard of cancer care to be adopted by 2015. About 70% of all cancer patients undergo treatment in one of the 1,500 CoC accredited cancer programs in hospitals and clinics in the United States.
While patient navigation is being adopted by most cancer programs, the question still remains about who will pay for it. Patient navigation is currently not a reimbursable expense, despite its tangible benefits for patients.