No one ever expects to hear a “cancer” diagnosis. But when they do, questions, decisions and emotions take on a life of their own.

That’s why Rapides Cancer Center offers an Oncology Nurse Navigator – a trained nurse who can guide patients through the entire process, from diagnosis throughout treatment.

 “My role as a patient navigator is to give cancer patients the education and support that  they,” said Cherie Smith, RN, Oncology Nurse Navigator. “I can help with scheduling appointments, follow-up with physicians, answer questions about nutrition, medication and side effects, really, anything that’s on their minds.”

Studies have shown that patients with a patient navigator show clinical benefits – and for a country where cancer will surpass heart disease as the leading cause of death by 2020, that’s important.

“Patients are referred to me by their physician,” Smith said. “So, our relationship begins at diagnosis and continues through all aspects of their care. Whether they receive chemo, radiation and/or surgery, my job is to be the string that ties all of those things together so that the patient navigates them seamlessly.”

A patient with newly diagnosed cancer is faced with a bewildering set of treatment options. Obstacles to optimal care can range from transportation problems to understanding complex treatment options.

“Everyone’s experience is different,” Smith said. “My job is to give the patient the information and support that they need to help them fight cancer. We want to find the best treatment for each patient and their family. Ultimately, our goal is to provide better care – and, therefore, better outcomes.”

For more information about the Oncology Nurse Navigator program, call 769-7200.