Health Break | Published June 2, 2008 | Written by Kristin Sides, BS, certified patient navigator, cancer program, Mount Nittany Medical Center

Patient Navigation: If You Have Cancer, Don't Go It Alone

Patient Navigation: If you have cancer, don't go it alone.

When you first learn you have cancer it can be a very difficult and overwhelming time. You may have questions about your health or what help is available to someone in your community that is facing a cancer diagnosis. Mount Nittany Medical Center has responded with the creation of the Patient Navigation program.

In the late 1980's Dr. Harold P. Freeman, a surgeon specializing in breast cancer, grew increasingly concerned, as he saw large numbers of women from his Harlem community presenting with late stage breast cancer, despite the availability of routine screening for the disease. As the National President of the American Cancer Society he conducted a series of hearings throughout America to get feedback from community leaders and citizens about the impact of cancer on their lives. After hearing the accounts of significant barriers to care, Dr. Freeman determined there were too many obstacles to cancer prevention, early detection, treatment and supportive care. As a result, Dr. Freeman created the first "Patient Navigation" program in 1990 at Harlem Hospital Center in New York City, funded by a grant from the American Cancer Society.

The concept of Patient Navigation is receiving additional attention in the policymaking and health care community. Based on the model established by Dr. Freeman, the Patient Navigator Outreach and Chronic Disease Prevention Act was signed into law by President Bush in June 2005. This act made grants available to eligible entities for the development and operation of demonstration programs to provide patient navigator services to improve health care outcomes.

The goal of the Patient Navigator program at Mount Nittany Medical Center is to answer your questions and to help you work through any obstacles you may be experiencing. The Patient Navigator is available to any cancer patient or the family of any cancer patient. This program is a free service to you and can help you with many day-to-day issues including:

  • Guide you through the health care system

  • Help you with questions about insurance and patient assistance programs

  • Help you find ways to pay for health care if you don't have insurance or if your insurance does not cover your treatment

  • Direct you and your family to local resources and support systems

  • Help you coordinate transportation getting to and from treatments and medical appointments

  • Help you find information about health care including clinical trials and second opinions

  • Help you keep track of your appointments

  • Help you get any of your questions answered

Centre County has a wealth of available services for people with cancer and it is the aim of the Patient Navigator to help you find and utilize all these valuable resources. Your primary focus, as a person living with cancer, should be getting well. The Patient Navigator is here to enable you to work towards that goal while getting you the help you need. The Patient Navigator is your advocate throughout the cancer continuum.

If you are a person facing a cancer diagnosis or know someone that could benefit from this program please contact Kristin Sides by calling 814.234.6175 or by email at

Mount Nittany Medical Center is offering Meet the Navigator Day on Saturday, June 7 from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm in conference room 4 at the Medical Center. Appointments are still available. Please call 814.234.6175 to register.

Kristin Sides is a patient navigator at Mount Nittany Medical Center.