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WellSpan’s breast cancer navigators: The ‘hub’ of a patient’s journey

October 02, 2023

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WellSpan breast cancer navigators include (seated, from left) Tracey Weidner, Amy Flagle, and Melanie Thorne; and (back row) Ashley Sheaffer and Toni Fitzgerald.

WellSpan breast cancer navigators include (seated, from left) Tracey Weidner, Amy Flagle, and Melanie Thorne; and (back row) Ashley Sheaffer and Toni Fitzgerald.

Fear, uncertainty, and confusion are common feelings when a person is faced with a cancer diagnosis. At WellSpan, when patients are diagnosed with breast cancer, they are assigned a Breast Cancer Navigator. This is a special caregiver who provides guidance, education, encouragement, and coordinates services to eliminate barriers to care, at no additional cost to the patient.  

“Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming for the patient and their family,” said Melanie Thorne, breast cancer navigator. “As navigators, we work to help guide patients through a sometimes difficult treatment schedule, but we also provide the human side to care as a person they can talk to and ask questions.”

Within WellSpan and across the nation, breast navigators have been shown to decrease the time from diagnosis to treatment, as well as hospital admissions and treatment delays.

Since 2013, our breast navigators have helped more than 7,000 patients navigate their journey across South Central Pennsylvania. This year, more team members have been added to provide a system-wide level of personalized care.

WellSpan’s breast navigators are experienced nurses, certified in oncology, or have other related specialty certifications. They recognize that a patient’s needs may vary and will provide information and connection as much or as little as the patient desires.  

“A single connection point for the patient helps them, but also helps us provide continuity of care,” said Tracey Weidner, breast cancer navigator. “We can relay to the rest of the care team how a patient is feeling or if they want something specifically addressed at their next appointment to ensure their needs are met.”  

As a patient completes cancer treatment, the navigator remains a resource for continued support as the patient embarks on a new journey as a cancer survivor.  

To find more information and resources regarding WellSpan’s breast care programs and services, visit WellSpan.org/BreastCancer