For Latinas, Patient Navigation Can Speed Breast Cancer Diagnosis

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS — It’s not uncommon for Latinas who have an abnormal mammogram test to not follow up and get the medical treatment that can need. But a little extra support from helpers called “patient navigators” can make the difference.

Facing a possible diagnosis of breast cancer can be tough for anyone to process. But for whatever reason Hispanic women need a little extra help to get them back to the doctor.

“It can be fear, it can be economics, it can be language issues, it can be not knowing the medical system and what are the next steps required to get complete follow-through," said Amelie Ramirez of the University of Texas Health Science Center.

Ramirez is the author of a new study published in the journal Cancer that found assigning a “patient navigator” to Latinas who have abnormal breast cancer scans improves their health care.

“They help them set up their appointments. If the woman says 'I can’t come in because I don’t have anyone to help me with child care, I don’t have transportation,' our patient navigator assists them with these barriers," Ramirez said.

In the study, on average, women received a diagnosis more than 40 days sooner if they worked with a patient navigator.

This can save lives and health care dollars. Ramirez said they are looking for ways to make having a patient navigator on staff as a standard part of a successful health care model.