New research has found that high risk and minority women receive better cancer care if they are paired with a patient navigator.
The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology
, found that navigated participants were more likely than non-navigated participants to receive antiestrogen therapy, which is considered the gold standard in treatment for certain types of breast cancer.
“This study gave us a glimpse of the potential benefit of patient navigation but there’s a lot more research to be done,” Naomi Ko, MD, MPH, instructor of medicine in the Section of Hematology Oncology at Boston University School of Medicine and a practicing breast oncologist at Boston Medical Center said in a statement. “At this point we still need to understand how or why patient navigation works.”
Using data from a previously published, multicenter study funded by the National Cancer Institute, researchers aimed to identify the possible benefits of assigning patient navigators to women recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
The results showed that among participants eligible for antiestrogen therapy, navigated participants (n = 380) had a statistically significant higher likelihood of receiving antiestrogen therapy compared with non-navigated controls (n = 381; odds ratio [OR], 1.73; P
= .004) in a multivariable analysis.
However, the results of the analysis also found that navigated participants eligible for radiation therapy after lumpectomy (n = 255) were no more likely to receive radiation (OR, 1.42; P
= .22) than control participants (n = 297).
“Understanding where patient navigation is most beneficial in cancer care, in order to help the neediest patients, is a rich topic for future research, “ Ko said.
Navigators are experts in helping patients overcome the numerous obstacles they face, including monetary difficulties, transportation issues, educational and even language barriers, and have become an integral part of the cancer care model. It has been known that minority and high-risk patients, or those who may benefit most from these navigators, often have worse outcomes after diagnosed with cancer.
Ko NY, Darnell JS, Calhoun E, et al. Can patient navigation improve receipt of recommended breast cancer care? Evidence from the National Patient Navigation Research Program [published online ahead of print July 28, 2014]. J Clin Oncol.