HealthDay News — For patients with early cancer, a nurse navigator intervention can improve patient experience and reduce problems with care, according to researchers.

“[N]urse navigators helped patients with cancer to feel more informed, more supported and better prepared for the future, and that they faced fewer perceived care problems,” Samantha K. Hendren, MD, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Kevin Fiscella, MD, MPH, of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York wrote in an editorial in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

To determine whether a nurse navigator intervention improves quality of life and experience with care, Edward H. Wagner, MPH, from the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, and colleagues conducted a study involving 251 adults with recently diagnosed primary breast, colorectal or lung cancer.

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They randomly assigned 118 patient to receive enhanced usual care and 133 patients to receive care with nurse navigator support for four months.

Patients in the nurse navigator group reported significantly higher scores on the Patient Assessment of Chronic Illness Care, the researchers found. There were no significant between-group differences in the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-General Quality of Life scale.

Patients in the nurse navigator intervention also reported significantly fewer problems with care, especially in the Picker instrument-measured subscales of psychosocial care, care coordination and information. There was no significant difference between the groups in cumulative costs after diagnosis, but among nurse navigator patients, lung cancer costs were $6,852 less.

“These effects on patient-relevant outcomes provide some of the strongest evidence to date that the benefits of patient navigation extend beyond cancer screening and follow-up,” Hendren and Fiscella wrote.


  1. Wagner EH et al. J Clin Oncol. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2013.51.7359.
  2. Hendren S, Fiscella K. J Clin Oncol. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2013.51.7359.