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Sharp Health News

Helping cancer patients navigate a difficult journey

Oct. 7, 2016

Breast cancer navigators

Receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer can be frightening and confusing. While family and friends can help patients process the news and determine next steps, the complexities of treatment and recovery can make the process even more daunting.

At The Cancer Centers of Sharp HealthCare, specially trained patient navigators like Ana Luisa Suarez help patients manage their treatment and recovery journey every step of the way — from support groups to hair-loss options to rides to chemotherapy visits.

“We’re there for people who need support,” says Suarez. “Sometimes they don’t feel that support from friends and family or they feel that others don’t understand them. In these groups they can talk and compare notes with people facing the same issues.”

Some cancer navigators are themselves cancer survivors, and understand the many ways in which patients and families can benefit from this support.

Patients at the David and Donna Long Cancer Center at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, the Laurel Amtower Cancer Institute at Sharp Memorial Hospital and the Douglas and Nancy Barnhart Cancer Center at Sharp Chula Vista are paired up with a cancer navigator who can help connect them and their families to resources including:

  • Financial assistance
  • Nutrition classes with specially-trained dietitians
  • Integrative therapies like Healing Touch, aromatherapy and music therapy
  • Access to head scarves, pillows and pouches for use during treatment, and hair care
  • Information about reconstruction options

“Our goal is to connect with patients as soon as possible after diagnosis,” says Terri Wyatt, a patient navigator at Sharp Memorial Hospital. While some patients call navigators directly after learning about them from their doctor, others are contacted by a navigator after their positive biopsy results or when navigators receive a referral from a patient’s medical group.

Patient navigators can provide as much or as little support as a patient desires, and for as long as the patient wants their assistance. Any patient who wants the assistance of a navigator will be connected with one.

Learn more about the Cancer Patient Navigator Program at Sharp.

For the news media: To talk with a cancer patient navigator for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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