Princeton Baptist Breast Care group, from left, Tammy Byram, RN; Marla Ford, RN, Nurse Navigator; Bonnie Epperson Lead, Mammography Technician; Pam James, Manager, Breast Care Center, RN, AOCN, MCS; Pauline Davis, Mammography Technician; Beverly Rizzo, Ma
Improving the quality of life for breast cancer survivors is the primary purpose of a collaborative effort being led by Princeton Baptist Medical Center and the UAB School of Nursing. The initiative, which is the first of its kind in Alabama, is made possible by a grant from the Women’s Breast Health Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham and will help breast cancer patients access resources that can increase quality of life during recovery and survivorship.
The Princeton Baptist Breast Care Center will implement the Breast Cancer Resource and Survivorship Network which will include a Resource Navigator for patients who are diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. The navigator is a professional social worker who is dedicated to providing individualized assistance to patients, families, and caregivers. That assistance can help them overcome health care system barriers and facilitate timely access to quality medical and psychosocial care from the time of diagnosis through survivorship.
The navigator will identify needs, evaluate options, put solutions in place and provide ongoing support to help patients sustain independence for better outcomes. “Navigators are changing the face of cancer care in our lifetime by advocating for and providing ongoing guidance and support to cancer patients, their families and significant others, by accompanying the patient through every aspect of the cancer journey,” says Pamela James, Manager of Mammography and Breast Care Center.
Patients can contact the Resource Navigator soon after diagnosis and receive assistance in such areas as nutrition, lodging, transportation, supplies, prosthetics, wigs, lymphedema prevention, psychological issues, etc. The navigator will follow up with the patient regularly to address any concerns and answer questions the patient may experience. Patients can also access the program via a toll-free number and the internet beginning in the fall of this year.
“This program will impact the quality of life during the survivorship process for both the patient and family, leading to a better outcome,” James says. “We will promote this program through community awareness campaigns, the faith-based community, Birmingham hospitals and churches. We must support breast cancer patients who have undergone treatment, such as chemotherapy and radiation, with medical and non-medical support because after treatment these survivors have a new norm.”
Patients don’t have to be treated at Princeton to receive the navigation services. “It will be a collaborative strategic plan to bring some Birmingham affiliated hospitals together under a multidisciplinary team approach for excellent patient care. We will collaborate with UAB and other hospitals in the community,” James adds. “We will cover the counties of Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair, Walker, and Blount to help women connect with the appropriate resources in their areas.”
Terri Lamons, Executive Director of Imaging Services and Neuroscience at Princeton, says their team already takes a multidisciplinary approach to treating their patients and this initiative will expand those efforts. “We were already doing this on a smaller scale, but the grant has enabled us to expand our reach and to hire a navigator,” she says. “When there are barriers to what these women need, they are frustrated. There are free resources out there, but they don’t always know how to access them. Our goal is to break down those barriers, and we will be the connecting piece so they find the help they need.”
The UAB School of Nursing will use its portion of the grant to establish the Young Breast Cancer Survivorship Network (YBCSN). Its focus will be to improve the quality of life for women who are young breast cancer survivors, as well as for their loved ones, through education, support and networking. They are defining “young survivors” as women who receive a diagnosis before menopause.
“Young breast cancer survivors have different needs than women who are diagnosed at an older age. The impact of breast cancer can be devastating for young women and their families. At a time when they usually are preparing for family and career, their life course is altered to face treatment, recovery, and survivorship,” says Silvia Gisiger Camata, RN, MPH, and the Program Manager in the UAB School of Nursing. “These young survivors also face different challenges compared with older women, including potential infertility and early menopause, pregnancy after diagnosis, concerns about sexuality and intimacy, changes in family and child relationships, and concerns over work and finances.”
To help improve the lives of these young cancer survivors, the YBCSN initiative will:
- Develop partnerships among health providers, advocates, and organizations who provide education and support for young breast cancer survivors,
- Educate young breast cancer survivors and families about premenopausal breast cancer,
- Increase public and family awareness about the special needs of young breast cancer survivors, and
- Extend outreach through the development of a website of the Young Breast Cancer Survivorship Network.
As a partner with other health providers and organizations who care for and about young breast cancer survivors, the role of the YBCSN is to highlight and integrate the needs of these young survivors within these organizations, and to identify the services they offer, such as direct care, supportive care, complementary therapy, education support, child counseling, and financial help, among others. The program provides support survivors and children or family members of survivors through a partnership with Oasis Counseling for Women and Children.
“In the future, our plan is to provide a web-based program, which will allow for greater flexibility for young women with busy schedules. We hope to integrate program, network and direct services to and for young breast cancer survivors,” Camata says. “The ultimate goal of the Young Breast Cancer Survivorship Network initiative in the School of Nursing is to improve quality of life for women who are young breast cancer survivors as well as for their loved ones through education, support and networking.”