With 11.7 million cancer survivors in the United States, the role of navigation in survivorship is growing. As our population ages, navigators will need to focus on the specific needs of the older and elderly patients they navigate through survivorship care.
Survivorship is an essential component of the cancer care continuum, in which navigation now plays a key role. The role of the navigator may differ from program to program and cancer site to cancer site. However, navigation continues to grow and become more integrated in every aspect of the cancer care continuum.
This study confirms that navigation objectives similar to survivorship program goals need to be modified based on the populations we serve, whether they are young, middle-aged, or elderly. It is essential for navigators to be able to identify and delineate the patient/family needs based on age and prioritize survivorship care accordingly. There are several different survivorship models and navigation models. Regardless, the primary goals of survivorship remain constant. The relationship that is formed between the navigator and the patient and family is critical to the overall outcomes in survivorship.
Communication is one of the key elements for a successful patient–navigator relationship throughout the cancer care continuum. Navigators will educate and assist survivors in understanding surveillance guidelines and schedules that are necessary to assess risks for late effects and secondary cancers. This is also true for understanding the importance of early detection for cancer recurrences. In addition, the navigator will serve as the survivors’ and their families’ resource and advocate for connecting them to other health professionals who play a big role in survivorship. Examples include mental health, allied health, and community outreach professionals.
As Stanton and colleagues found, elderly survivors will have concerns regarding physical quality-of-life issues, fear of recurrence, and financial concerns, as well as others. The navigator will serve as the conduit for these survivors and their families to gain access to the other professionals to have their issues and concerns addressed. In doing so, navigators improve the ability to assist survivors and their families achieve overall satisfaction and positive outcomes throughout survivorship.