Breast Cancer Nurse Navigator is a Caring Ally

“You have breast cancer.” Those four simple words will strike fear in the hearts of nearly 227,000 women this year. And when the full impact of the diagnosis sinks in, the challenges ahead can seem overwhelming. Choosing a breast cancer specialist, knowing how to break the news to family and friends, undergoing breast cancer treatments and staying on top of insurance paperwork—these are just a few of the hurdles every woman encounters on her journey from breast cancer patient to breast cancer survivor.

“Many times, they don’t know where to go, or what to do,” says Carol Knipping, RN, ONN, head of the Breast Cancer Nurse Navigator Program at USMD Hospital at Arlington. “My goal is to take care of these women—morning to night.”  

Part advocate, part teacher, part problem solver, part advisor, part friend, the oncology nurse navigator provides one-on-one emotional support and services to help ease the burden for breast cancer patients and their loved ones.

“For a year, year-and-a-half, patients are in the throes of breast cancer treatments,” Knipping says. “During that time, I provide them with information so they can make informed decisions. I can help them select an oncologist, make doctor’s appointments, schedule treatments, consult with the surgeon,  get answers to their questions, connect them with resources for transportation or financial advice—whatever they may need. But most of all, I do a lot of listening. I ask them about what’s making them anxious and I see how I can remove that anxiety. I always tell them that breast cancer isn’t just about your health, it’s about your life.”

This holistic view has been the inspiration behind other offerings such as “Look Good, Feel Better” classes sponsored by the American Cancer Society. During the half-day get-togethers, patients can bond over lunch and tips about make-up, wigs and more. And in the near future, Knipping hopes the program will offer yoga classes, guided imagery meditation and massage. “USMD Hospital is very dedicated to improving and expanding services that contribute to the well-being of breast cancer patients,” she says.

Since opening on December 6, 2010, the Breast Cancer Nurse Navigator Program has helped 130 patients—including four men with breast cancer. “Supporting someone is a real privilege,” Knipping says. “It’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. I get back so much more than I give. These women are my idols. They are just amazing to me—the strength they have.”

And despite the fact that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime, there is some good news—the number of deaths from breast cancer is actually going down. “There are so many more breast cancer survivors now,” says Knipping. “More women are getting regular mammograms, so the cancer is being detected earlier. And new chemotherapies are making a difference, too.” Today, there are more than 2.9 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. A stat that Knipping and USMD’s Breast Cancer Nurse Navigator Program are very happy to continue bolstering.

If you or someone you know would like more information about the USMD Hospital’s Breast Cancer Nurse Navigator Program—or about breast cancer screening, diagnosis, treatments or follow-up care—please call 817.472.3729.

 

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