A Beacon of Hope: The Joan Katz Cancer Resource Center at Baylor Scott & White All Saints
Over one million people in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer this year. When someone is diagnosed with cancer, the last thing they should be worrying about is how to navigate the healthcare system. The Joan Katz Cancer Resource Center (JKCRC) at Baylor Scott & White All Saints is here to help.
The JKCRC offers support, care, and guidance to anyone in the community, regardless of where they are receiving care. “We are a center without walls,” said Lisa Kirby, RN.
An oncology nurse since 2003, Kirby is a nurse cancer patient navigator at the JKCRC. But what is a cancer patient navigator?
According to the National Cancer Institute, a cancer patient navigator is “an individual trained to help identify and resolve real and perceived barriers to care, enabling patients to adhere to care recommendations and thus improve their cancer outcomes.” The navigators at the JKCRC walk with a patient from the initial diagnosis through all phases of treatment and beyond. They help with everything from helping facilitate communication between a patient and their healthcare team to working with employers to helping a patient access resources in the community.
“We have two lay navigators and four nurse navigators [two breast cancer navigators and two AYA/Head and Neck] on staff,” Kirby said. “The lay navigators are survivors who can offer emotional support throughout all phases of treatment.” The nurse navigators take care of the medical side, educating, answering questions, using their contacts in the nursing community to make sure the patient is supported.
“Basically, we’re a bridge between the patient and the healthcare system,” Kirby explained.
The three most common cancers in Tarrant County are breast, colon, and prostate cancer. With early detection and the proper treatment, they are all highly treatable. Kirby says a lot of people are delaying screening such as mammograms and colonoscopies, as well as simply routine checkups, because of concerns about COVID-19. However, with the Safe Care campaign at All Saints that includes temperature checks for anyone who enters the building, increased cleaning, limiting the number of people in the building, and staff and patient monitoring, Kirby said she actually feels safest at work. “People are very mindful of being safe here.”
I asked Kirby what we can look out for in ourselves and our family to help with early detection. “Each kind of cancer has a different presentation,” Kirby said. “But more than anything, I would say know your body. Pay attention to any kind of changes. If there’s anything different from your body’s norm that’s ongoing, get in touch with your physician.”
In response to COVID-19, the JKCRC offers that are free to the public. They offer free screenings and HPV vaccination clinics, as well. Virtual support groups are in the works, too. “We were in the midst of working on our support groups when COVID hit,” said Kirby. “We’re moving them to virtual now.”
For cancer survivors, the JKCRC offers wellness and exercise programs. “The yoga class here has really become a community,” Kirby said. “They really support each other, not just about their cancer, but in all aspects of their lives.”
I asked Kirby what a person can do when a loved one has received a cancer diagnosis. “The best thing you can do is listen. Offer kindness, offer to help with everyday tasks, but really just listen.”
When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, we want to help, but most of us don’t know what resources are available. This is the beauty of the JKCRC’s navigator program. The nurse navigators offer medical guidance, while the lay navigators “are a beacon of hope… they are an example of those who have come through treatment and survived.” Together, they walk with the patient throughout their cancer journey.
For more information about the Joan Katz Cancer Resource Center at Baylor Scott & White, visit the website or call 817-922-2223.