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An Information Sherpa

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It's easy for cancer patients and their families to get lost among the piles of information they get from their doctors. To help them with decision-making and to make sense of everything, some hospitals are now providing cancer patients with navigators, reports the Wall Street Journal Health Blog's Laura Landro. Researchers have been studying patient navigator programs for years, and a new supplement to the journal Cancer is devoted to the topic. The National Consortium of Breast Centers offers a certificate program for those wishing to train to become patient navigators, focusing on the issues faced by breast cancer patients, Landro says. "While many of the programs are dedicated to helping underserved and racial and ethnic minorities with poor access to care, even the savviest patients who have medical insurance can often be daunted by the complexities of cancer care, and benefit from the help of a navigator," Landro says. NCI is also researching navigators in the Patient Navigation Research Program, which studies the differences between patients that have navigators and those that don't. "While funding for such programs has largely come from government grants, private foundations and cancer advocacy groups, more hospitals are expected to add the services thanks to revised standards from the American College of Surgeons' Commission on Cancer, which accredits more than 1,400 cancer centers in the US caring for 71 percent of all newly diagnosed cancer patients," Landro adds. "By 2015, centers accredited by the commission must offer patient navigation services as a condition of accreditation."

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