Navigating Breast Cancer

Navigating Breast Cancer

When Nancy Salmon was diagnosed with breast cancer she quickly took action to learn about the different treatment options available. Although she acted quickly, she was careful to not rush a decision about treatment.

“My advice to a recently diagnosed woman is to become as educated as possible about her diagnosis and her options for treatment,” said Salmon.

For patients at Huntsville Hospital Breast Center, a dedicated team of nurses called breast patient navigators help women through this process.

“We can help wade through all the information out there and help them understand it better,” said Sandra Cross, RN. “Then they feel more confident that they are making the best decision possible.”

According to the National Consortium of Breast Centers, the organization that provides certification for breast patient navigators, nurses who undergo the certification process have an expanded knowledge of treatment options and can enhance patient safety and quality of care.

“I spend time on the phone with many patients each day who are anxious and have questions,” said Kathy Pack, RN. “My job is rewarding because I know what we do is helpful for patients.”

Breast Health NavigatorsThe role of the breast patient navigators is truly defined by what each individual patient needs – from providing information and education to just being available to listen and answer questions.

“I feel blessed to be able to do whatever I can do to help them through this difficult time,” said Laura Harris, CRNP.

After careful consideration, Salmon’s treatment included a lumpectomy, six rounds of chemotherapy and 35 radiation treatments. Her treatment was coordinated between three physicians working collaboratively. Marshall Schreeder, MD, at Clearview Cancer Institute provided chemotherapy, Elizabeth Falkenberg, MD, at the Center for Cancer Care provided radiation treatments and George Harriman, MD, of North Alabama Surgical Associates performed the lumpectomy.

Today, Salmon is a five-year cancer survivor. “Surviving cancer changes everything,” she said. “It makes you realize that every day is a gift.”

Surviving and Thriving

The support provided by the breast patient navigators continues after even after treatment is complete. The Surviving and Thriving program is an 8-week, wellness-oriented program that helps women face the unique challenges that come after treatment including physical side effects and emotional issues. The program is funded by Huntsville Hospital Foundation’s Liz Hurley Breast Cancer Fund. For information on how to support this program contact the Foundation at (256) 265-8077 or visit