Women who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer can receive additional support through a new program at the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Health Center.
The Navigator Care Program pairs women with breast cancer with trained volunteers who literally help to “navigate” them through the different facets of their care.
|Nurse practitioner Nancy Baccaro.
|Photo by Al Ferreira
“No one should go through breast cancer alone,” says
Dr. Carolyn Runowicz, director of the Neag Comprehensive
Cancer Center and president of the American Cancer Society, who is a breast cancer survivor.
“But in today’s world, it’s not always possible for family members and friends to be with a patient every step of the way during her care. That’s why we’ve started the Navigator Care Program.”
Runowicz says the Navigator’s role is to listen to the patient’s concerns, accompany her to appointments, provide her with information about support groups and support services available at the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center and through the American Cancer Society, and generally
It is an optional program and was designed to complement existing services available through UConn’s multidisciplinary breast cancer program.
Many of the volunteers are also involved with the Auxiliary of the American Cancer Society.
| Dr. Carolyn Runowicz, left, director of the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center, with volunteers in the Navigator Care Program: standing, from left, Arleen Wallach, Michelle Hudon, Judy Siegal, Anita Coury; seated, Ronni Breiter, Ellen Dworetsky, and Janice Goldsmith.
|Photo by Alan Grant
For the past year, they have been undergoing training to learn about where, how, and when various services are offered for breast cancer patients at the Health Center.
They have also become acquainted with the surgeons, oncologists, nurses, nurse practitioners, social workers, nutritionists, and others who are part of the breast team.
The volunteers share an “on call” schedule, so someone is always available to talk to newly diagnosed patients within 24 to 48 hours.
“They gently guide women through the system and help them throughout their journey,” says Nancy Baccaro, a nurse practitioner who works closely with the Navigators.
“This is all about giving patients one more person who is out there in the world saying, ‘How are you? I care about you,’ and offering to help.”
Runowicz says the goal of the program is “to do all we can to minimize the stress women experience when they are going through treatment for breast cancer, and help them concentrate on their recovery and overall health.”