“Once again, the oncology nurse will need to be a navigator,” Kaufman explains—a role that is itself undergoing a transformation in the era of personalized oncology care. “The role of navigator has changed from helping the patient navigate the possibilities for cancer treatment, to helping the patient navigate ethics, genetics, prevention options, family history, and costs.”

One often-neglected facet of personalized oncology is the availability to individual patients of independent whole-genome sequencing with a single blood draw, at a cost of approximately $1,000. “This provides the patient with a huge amount of information but very little context and no truly reliable interpretation,” Kaufman warns. One of the emerging roles of the oncology nurse will be to help patients evaluate their probable risks based on genetic, lifestyle, and other factors.

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“The science is changing very quickly,” Kaufman notes. “Oncology nurses have always had to participate in continuing education. It now more critical than ever.”

Bryant Furlow is a medical journalist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 


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