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How Cancer Patient Navigators Guide Families from Diagnosis Through Recovery

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Denise Bradford

By Denise Bradford, MS, RN, Director of Cancer Navigation, Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is overwhelming. But for many patients, the hardest part comes next—navigating what can feel like a maze of scheduling tests and appointments, breaking the news to loved ones, and getting answers to financial questions.

No family should have to go through this journey alone. At Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, a dedicated team of patient navigators is focused 100% on guiding you and your family through the highs and lows of diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.

Patient navigators are healthcare professionals who focus on helping patients, families, and caregivers overcome barriers to care. Our navigation team includes nurses, social workers, and dieticians whose sole role is to take care of you. For example, your navigator can help you:

  • Get streamlined appointments with medical and mental health care providers.
  • Connect you with a variety of community resources such as transportation, financial assistance, food insecurity and counseling, if needed.
  • Provide nutrition counseling to promote healing.

Above all, we are here to support you—emotionally and through education—as you take on the decisions and challenges that come with a cancer diagnosis.

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Your Needs Come First

During your first meeting with your patient navigator, we want to hear about you: How are you coping? What medical or emotional needs are causing you stress? What personal or professional things are you worried about right now?

Your patient navigator will never judge you. Please feel empowered to ask questions, no matter how trivial or strange you might think the topic sounds. We are here to provide answers and next steps, such as connections to community resources, support groups, and educational programs. Our top priority is to help you feel supported from diagnosis through recovery.

“I feel really comfortable talking to you about all of the things going on during my husband’s treatment. I feel you’re not going to judge me for saying what I feel.” – A patient’s wife on her experience with a navigator

Education for Informed Care Decisions

When you get information from different specialists, coordinating everything can be confusing. Our navigators streamline this process by reviewing all the instructions and information with you and your family members/caregivers. Using this information, we can help educate you, your family, and your caregivers about your cancer diagnosis, treatment and side effects, opportunities to join clinical trials, and nutrition.

Healthy eating promotes healing and can help you feel more energetic during treatment. The Cancer Center’s dieticians can help address your personal dietary needs and help optimize your nutrition before, during, and after treatment.

“I really appreciate you checking in. It means a lot.” – Patient after a check-in phone call with a navigator

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Getting You Where You Need to Go

Navigators help ensure timely access to support services, appointments, tests, and procedures. If you need to see multiple specialists, we can coordinate scheduling to include as many appointments as possible in your visit to the Cancer Center.

We also remove barriers to cancer services. For example, if you need help getting to and from treatment, we can coordinate transportation. If you need help keeping up with tasks at home, we’ll help you find resources in your community. No matter how simple or complex the barrier, we are here to make your life easier.

“I sometimes struggle to find good moments, but the help I received with transportation is one of them.” – Patient after receiving a ride to their treatment

Emotional Support

Cancer is challenging for patients, families, and caregivers. Processing anxiety and fear of the unknown can be difficult. However, you are not alone during this process. Your navigator will offer a kind, empathetic ear and can pick up on emotional cues. We will guide you through important conversations with loved ones, and we are here to listen if you need to vent or just need reassurance. Explore support and survivorship services.

“I had no idea how we were going to make it through this difficult time. Thank you for providing us with all of this support.” – Patient

Partners in Your Cancer Care

At Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, we offer every patient free access to patient navigators. This is in conjunction with our hospital partners and thanks to the generosity of donors. Access navigator services through our front desk or with a referral from one of our physicians. We can make your entire process less stressful. From screening and diagnosis through treatment and survivorship, our patient support team can guide you every step of the way.

Make an Appointment with a Patient Navigator at one of our locations

Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center
4950 Essen Lane
Baton Rouge, LA 70809

(225) 767-0847

Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center in Houma

8166 Main Street, Suite 101
Houma, LA 70360

(985) 876-9045

Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center in Covington

1203 S. Tyler Street
Covington, LA 70433

(985) 875-2234