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Introducing Breast Care Navigation to Volusia/Flagler Region
The area’s largest hospital network is offering something new to help breast cancer patients navigate through the entire treatment process. It’s called Breast Care Navigation and while it is newly implemented at Florida Hospital Fish Memorial and Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center, soon it will be available to all six Florida Hospital campuses in the Volusia and Flagler counties.

“Without Breast Care Navigation, services can be fragmented and patients go, not only from facility to facility, but doctor to doctor,” said Sara Sprague, RN, EdD, Administrative Director for Florida Hospital’s Volusia/Flagler Cancer Collaborative. “So now we have a service where were we can streamline everything and every patient gets their own personal care navigator.”

While this is a new service to make its way into Volusia and Flagler counties, Sprague feels that it is  something that every patient should have access to, regardless of where they live.

“Breast Care Navigation shouldn’t just be available in the big cities, but it should also be available to patients in the rural areas,” she said.  “The emotions you go through as a breast cancer patient are the same, whether you are in the city or in more rural areas. Everybody needs somebody that can help them through a very confusing and overwhelming process.”

The goal of breast navigators is to guide patients and families through the complexities of cancer treatment. These trained oncology and breast care certified nurses serve as health advisors and advocates. They are a consistent, knowledgeable clinical resource throughout breast cancer screening, diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

“Cancer, just that word is very, very scary,” said Tracy Fosnow, RN, Florida Hospital Fish Memorial Breast Care Navigator. “As a Navigator, I’m here to make it a little bit easier for the patient, as far as scheduling appointments with physicians and diagnostic tests. I serve as a point person and, as the name says, navigate the patient through the process, making it just a little bit easier for them. If they have questions, they now have a point person to call.”

Not only do the Breast Care Navigators provide logistical support for breast cancer patients, but they also provide vital emotional support. 

“When I meet with a patient, the first thing we usually do is hug or cry with each other,” said Charlene Brady, RN, Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center Certified Breast Care Navigator and breast cancer survivor. “A diagnosis of breast cancer is overwhelming, not only for the patient, but the family also. My focus is always on the patient and their family, helping them through the treatment process and into survivorship.”

Radiation Oncologist at Florida Hospital Fish Memorial, Gary Graham, MD, believes that the implementation of the Breast Care Navigator enables patients to stay locally, as opposed to driving long distances to receive cancer treatment.

"It is so much easier for patients to stay in their own communities, particularly when they are dealing with things like radiation therapy, which is what I do, because it consists of daily treatments, Monday through Friday, for a period of several weeks,” he said.  “It is very inconvenient for them to travel on a daily basis to get that treatment.”

“The real difference with this new program is that patients feel like they have someone on their side, someone who is an advocate for them, someone who is helping them arrange the studies they need to have done, and helping to expedite them when there is a delay for some reason,” Dr. Graham adds.  “The Breast Care Navigator has necessary inside knowledge on how to most effectively navigate the system and quickly facilitates communication with a team of health professionals, while coordinating various hospital services in an effort to streamline treatments.”