It’s May. And that means it is National Oncology Nursing Celebration time! I hope that those of you in this profession are pausing from the hectic schedules of attempting to balance work with family life, school, and other demands and reflecting for a bit. I’m a firm believer that sometimes we need to just sit for 30 minutes: Put your body on pause, and think about the incredible opportunity we each have regarding oncology patient care.
I believe it is a privilege to be in the lives of cancer patients (for me, that means women with breast cancer) during the most vulnerable time of their lives. Having the ability to empower them with information so that they can participate in the treatment decision-making process is pretty special. Calming the nerves of a young adult daughter who is frightened she may lose her mother to this disease. Supporting, educating, and navigating patients and their families through this journey to wellness or end of life is truly an experience I value and don’t take for granted.
Take a moment to reflect back why you chose the healthcare profession you did, and the oncology field in particular, and think about the many, many patients who have benefitted from your career decisions. I hope in doing so that you truly feel and see the value you have to patients and families by looking at your career choice through the eyes of your patients.
This issue has several articles worthy of your time. We all know that disparities result in individuals not getting the cancer screening they should, and in turn not getting diagnosed early or even being able to get treatment under way in some cases or completed in others cases. This is a frustration no doubt for many of you, and it can be more difficult depending on the geographic area your cancer center is located (urban vs community; Hispanic vs white). You will read in this issue about a team of dedicated nurse navigators who decided to take this challenge on. As a result, they have developed a series of strategies that they plan to implement with the goals of increasing screening rates, increasing knowledge, undoing myths, and saving lives.
There has been a lot of media coverage over the past 18 months regarding mammography— who should (and shouldn’t) get annual screening mammograms. It has been a hot topic of controversy at many conferences, where presenters on both sides go head to head (or breast to breast?) about who needs mammograms, at what age to start, and how often. There is a special patient population, however, that needs our focused attention. These are young women with a family history of breast cancer. When should these women begin mammography? How helpful is each method of breast imaging, recognizing that young women commonly have dense breast tissue? You will have the opportunity to read about a study that was performed looking at sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy that I’m confident you will find helpful. Take advantage and share these types of literary works with your colleagues. We hope that as a reader you will join our forum and consider submitting your work for publication too.
Lillie D. Shockney, RN, BS, MAS