Early screening is one of the many factors getting credit for the increasing number of Australians living beyond a diagnosis of cancer.
In fact, it is estimated that some 15.5 million Australians are considered survivors at present. That number is expected to climb to well over 20 million in the next decade or so.
While early screening protocols have greatly improved the ability for doctors to detect and treat many forms of this disease in it is initial – and more treatable – stages, not everyone is complying with recommended testing.
This is where patient navigators can make a big difference, a recent study found. These healthcare professionals serve as liaisons between the medical practices they work for and their patient populations.
The study in question focused in on more than 1,600 patients at different healthcare practices. The patients were all considered overdue for routine breast, colorectal or cervical cancer screenings.
They were also all considered at-risk of not getting the screenings at all due to the history of previously missed appointments. Their primary language, researchers noted, was not English.
About 800 patients in the study group were assigned a patient navigator. This professional reached out in patients’ language and explained the need for testing, provided educational information and encouraged them to undergo screening.
They also arranged for transportation, if necessary, and went with them to screening. Researchers ultimately found that patients who worked with a navigator were much more likely to undergo at least one of the screenings they had previously failed to complete.
The rate was about 32 percent. In the group not assigned a navigator, only about 18 percent of patients eventually reported for a routine screening appointment.
The study sheds light on the potential benefits liaisons may serve in helping individual patients navigate the healthcare system more efficient.
In doing so, these professionals may serve a critical role in addressing health disparities in populations that are considered at-risk, researchers concluded.
It is estimated that more than 1.7 million Australians will be diagnosed with a non-skin cancer form of cancer in the coming year. More than 500,000 will die from the disease.
Routine screening is considered one of the keys to helping people improve their odds of a positive outcome should cancer be diagnosed. When detected early, many forms of cancer, such as prostate, breast and colorectal, are deemed highly treatable.
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Considering the risk cancer poses in the Australian population, it is recommended that all people talk to their doctors about their risks. If a patient navigator is available to work with, this professional may also be able to help with guidance.