The following article features coverage from the ONA 2019 Navigation Summit. Click here to read more of Oncology Nurse Advisor‘s conference coverage.

Lung cancer navigation is hard work. It has never been more important for patients with lung cancer to have navigation than it is today. With the vast array of advancements in screening, diagnostic evaluation, and treatment, it is easy for patients to become “just a number.”

There are many different styles of navigation. I am biased to my experience with patient-focused navigation, especially related to barriers of lung cancer screening, initial work-up, and treatment. Empowering patients to overcome barriers is vital to prevent delays in care and suboptimal outcomes.

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Lung cancer screening is receiving more attention as it proves to find lung cancer at an earlier stage, when it is much more likely to be amenable to curative treatment. There are still many barriers to lung cancer screening. Caregivers and patients frequently do not have a good understanding of what lung cancer screening is. A nurse navigator is uniquely well-suited to coordinate the screening program. The nurse navigator can address the need for education while coordinating the other pieces of the program. Also, when there is a suspicious finding of cancer, the nurse navigator can assist in efficient evaluation and treatment. Utilization of a multidisciplinary approach to evaluate lung screening results is of the utmost importance to decrease the risks of false positives, complications from procedures, and overdiagnosis.

The significant number of new options for lung cancer treatment can be overwhelming for patients, and having a navigator to assist them with the chaos of treatment planning is very important. It is an exciting time of less invasive and more effective surgical techniques, as well as more precise radiation treatments for nonsurgical candidates. Equally exciting are the advances in treatment of advanced stage and recurrent lung cancer. The use of targeted and immunotherapy options is making a difference in quantity and quality of life for many lung cancer patients.

The growing number of lung cancer survivors necessitates focus on survivorship issues of these patients. These vary from the physical late effects of radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy to the psychological scars left from the life altering diagnosis of lung cancer. At a time when patients are expected to go on with life, they are often ill-equipped to do so. Many still struggle with the physical pain, as well as anxiety and depression, brought on by or exacerbated by lung cancer and treatment. Being aware of these issues and proactively addressing them is an important step in providing appropriate posttreatment care.

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The work of the lung cancer navigator is vital to the treatment of lung cancer patients. The service it provides to the patient and family is priceless. The ability to connect with a patient, and to assist them through their lung cancer treatment is hugely rewarding for patient and navigator alike.