When you envision a pathway, you think of something that helps you get to your destination. That holds true for cancer care too. Managed cancer pathways are meant to guide people through treatment. The head and neck cancer pathway makes stops at a variety of health specialties.
“There are certain physicians that send us patients right after diagnosis,” says Stacey Brill. She is a speech therapist with Lee Memorial Health System. “They’re diagnosed in the office that day, the doctor writes the order, faxes it to me the next day and we get them going before they even start chemo-radiation or have surgery. Just to get baselines and give them education.”
Oral cancer patient Larry Brundage got engaged with the system about 6 months into treatment. By then his head was swirling.
“You get so many doctors involved I think at one time my wife counted 23 doctors at one time,” Brundage says. “At the time I got involved there wasn't a navigator.”
The navigator is the point-person. Their role is to cut through the clutter. They meet with patients and determine what resources are available- they also create a roadmap for care. It includes coordinating between professionals and even assisting with setting appointments.
“It’s definitely a very important piece as far as providing nutrition education in that whole continuum of care,” says Lee Memorial Health System oncology dietitian Valerie Butram. “In the pathway, all of their needs will be addressed.”
Streamlining care takes a tiny bit of sting out of cancer treatment.