A Navigator's Take: Developing Cancer Screening Programs in Your Community

Navigators should use their knowledge of current cancer screening guidelines and their advocacy skills to suggest needed programs.
Navigators should use their knowledge of current cancer screening guidelines and their advocacy skills to suggest needed programs.

Cancer screening programs are an important outreach tool for cancer centers. They seek to identify cancer in patients when it is at its earliest stage and most treatable and also to identify people who are at high risk for cancer and give them the education and guidance to make the most appropriate health care choices.

Oncology nurse navigators and care coordinators are uniquely positioned to take on leadership roles in the planning and management of cancer screening programs within their cancer centers/institutions. Because many navigators work in independent positions (not as medical oncology, radiation therapy, or surgical oncology nurses), they often have knowledge of health system-wide resources such as community health assessments. 

All health care systems and community agencies have marketing/community plans that document their catchment area and the needs within their marketing area; these needs give clues to the types of programs and resources that would be most useful. Local statistics such as high mortality rates in certain cancers (eg, melanoma, lung cancers, late-stage breast cancer) and knowledge of population health risk behaviors, such as low mammography rates and a high number of smokers, are examples of community-specific guides that help administrators and navigators design programs that are best suited to their community. 

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