About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point in their lives and at Boston Medical Center they are taking extra steps to help patients who have been diagnosed.

A breast cancer diagnosis is not only frightening, it can be very confusing.

What do you do next? What treatment do you need and when?

“The doctor gives us orders, and then we are supposed to follow, well how am I going to do this?” Elizabeth Rhodes, a breast cancer patient, said.

That’s where Boston Medical Center’s patient navigators step in.

“We want to provide a one to one connection and be someone they can turn to if they have questions,” BMC patient navigator Katie Finn said.

Navigators like Finn connect with newly diagnosed cancer patients and offer help with everything from transportation, to money, to language and childcare issues.

“We try to provide that extra support and connect them to resources that will help them get thru this process,” Finn said.

And the help is working. A new BMC study finds cancer patients who use patient navigation services were more likely to receive their recommended treatments.

“With the increased complexity of screening and treatment, it’s confusing even to us, so for the patient it’s incredibly confusing. So the navigator is an expert in health care system and providers, so they know who to go to when the patient has them,” Dr. Tracy Battaglia, director of the women’s health unit at BMC, said.

Elizabeth Rhodes, battling her second round of breast cancer, is grateful for the help.

“The navigators were able to assist me getting in to the food pantry, they also helpful in getting handicapped parking for me,” Rhodes said. “When you ask the patient navigator for something, they are very compassionate, very sensitive to our needs

Since 2001 BMC has provided breast health navigation services to more than 20,000 women.

For Finn each one makes her job more rewarding.

“It’s pretty amazing, you are a small piece in the whole healthcare process, but the little things you do to help people, they feel it so much, and they are so grateful,” she said.

The patient navigation model is now used in several departments at Boston Medical Center including oncology, and urology.

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