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What is navigation?

What is navigation?

Providing guidance on the journey

Entering the cancer-care system is often confusing and overwhelming for patients. While dealing with a distressing diagnosis and physical symptoms, they are forced to coordinate many appointments with various health professionals, take in a great deal of new information and attempt to find answers to their questions. While a wide range of services and resources exist, many patients are unaware of them or do not know where or how to find the services they need. Patient navigation refers, generally, to guidance through all aspects of the cancer-care system throughout a person’s illness. It may include assistance with decisions about treatment and care, charting a path to meet an individual’s or family’s needs, or help overcoming any barriers the patient might face in finding quality care. The navigator can be a professional or a volunteer who works with patients to improve their access to services and resources and to organize the different forms of help they receive. The navigator may also act as an advocate for patients, helping to ensure they receive the best care available.

What I needed [when I was diagnosed] was somebody to talk to… I needed somebody that would sit across the table from me and say “this is what has just happened, these are your options, this is what you can do, this would work better for you,” and to listen.

— Rose, breast cancer survivor

Navigator programs first began as informal, community-based efforts to help socially and economically disadvantaged persons through the cancer system. In recent years, several different kinds of navigation have been established, including professional, lay and virtual (online).