(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – Patient navigator programs may help eliminate cancer disparities by facilitating evidenced-based quality care for vulnerable populations, a study published in the September 2012 issue of The Oncologist has found.

Citing “a dearth of evidence” regarding the benefit of patient navigator programs following a diagnosis of cancer, Beverly Moy, MD, MPH, of the Gillette Center for Women’s Cancers at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, and colleagues retrospectively examined sociodemographic and disease characteristics among participants in a program servicing disadvantaged minority communities in three community health centers.

Between 2001 and 2011, 186 patients were diagnosed with breast cancer, 25% with in situ disease; 32%, stage 1; 25%, stage 2; 13%, stage 3; and 5%, stage 4. Treatment data were available for 158 (85%) and race and disease stage information for 149 (80%).

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The majority of patients received guideline-indicated hormonal therapy (70 of 74 patients, or 95%), chemotherapy (15 of 17; 88%), and radiation (65 of 71, 92%), “all similar to published concordance rates at elite National Comprehensive Cancer Network institutions,” Dr. Moy wrote.

“Future research should prospectively analyze quality metrics to assess measures to improve the process and outcomes of patient navigation in diverse underserved settings, compared with control non-navigated populations,” they concluded.

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