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HealthFix: Radiation treatment and importance of Patient Navigators in healing

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Posted at 9:11 AM, Sep 18, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-18 11:52:42-04

Radiation therapy can play a key role in cancer treatment. During radiation therapy, high-energy radiation, delivered by a machine outside of the body or placed near the cancer cells internally, is used to shrink tumors, slow the spread of cancer, and kill cancer cells. Radiation damages the cancer cells’ DNA, which causes them to stop dividing or kills them completely. Unfortunately, radiation therapy can damage normal cells in the process; however, doctors take everything into account when planning a radiation therapy schedule in order to reduce the amount of damage to healthy tissue.

Why radiation therapy is used

- Primary cancer treatment (curative)

- Prior to surgery to shrink the cancerous tumor (neoadjuvant)

- Post surgery to stop the growth of remaining cancer cells (adjuvant)

- Combination therapy, often with chemotherapy, to destroy cancer cells

- Alleviate symptoms caused by cancer (palliative)

The importance of patient navigators

Patient navigators are often the first healthcare professional to meet with a patient after receiving a cancer diagnosis. They help remove the obstacles a patient may face when navigating through the medical system—from diagnosis and treatment to follow-up care and survivorship. The patient navigator will take care of appointment scheduling, communication between specialists, financial aid, and become a support system for the patient and family.

Types of support from a patient navigator

- Answers questions about treatments options, side effects, treatment planning

- Provides information about financial aid resources

- Assists with appointment scheduling and physician communication

- Assists with health insurance concerns

- Provides access to support groups and classes