Cancer patients given a guide

Central Alberta Cancer Centre now has a cancer patient navigator to help guide patients through treatment and followup care.

Central Alberta Cancer Centre now has a cancer patient navigator to help guide patients through treatment and followup care.

Alberta Health Services is placing specially trained nurses in all 15 community cancer facilities across the province. Most of them are now on the job.

Navigators are trained to:

• Provide accurate information for patients so they can make informed decisions about their next steps.

• Help patients prepare for tests and cancer treatments by explaining test results and treatment choices, or by referring patients to other resources or services.

• Improve co-ordination of care by working with other health care professionals.

• Help patients prepare for medical visits by explaining ahead of time what to expect.

• Help clients access financial resources and community supports.

Cancer patient navigator Eileen Wagner is the first person patients meet at the cancer centre at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

“I think it often makes the journey a little easier when they have that good first contact. It will actually alleviate a lot of the stress and the difficulties going through the rest of the system,” said Wagner who has worked as a nurse at the centre for 17 years and started her new job as patient navigator at the end of January.

She meets with 12 to 20 patients daily.

People who require cancer treatment can feel lost, frustrated, angry and scared and the navigator can help them feel like “somebody’s got your back,” she said. “So far I’ve had so much positive response from it. It’s almost addictive how rewarding it is feeling like you’re making a difference for people.”

The navigator program is funded by the Alberta Cancer Foundation at no charge to the patient and is available to Albertans with a confirmed diagnosis of cancer and their families.

Funding for the local navigator is available until next spring, at which time it will be assessed for further funding.

The cancer patient navigator program is mirrored after breast cancer patient navigator programs in Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge and Red Deer that assist patients during the surgical portion of treatment.

Alanna Dukes, nurse navigator with the Clinical Breast Health Program at Red Deer hospital, said support is available when the diagnosis is fresh and overwhelming to help patients sort out all the medical information to decide which surgery is best for them.

A navigator for breast cancer patients has been available in Red Deer since 2007. The program has an open caseload of 120 patients.

Visit for more information on cancer patient navigators, or contact Wagner at 403-406-5524. For the Clinical Breast Health Program call 403-314-6056.