YVMC nurse navigator steers patients through breast cancer diagnoses | SteamboatToday.com

YVMC nurse navigator steers patients through breast cancer diagnoses

Getting a screening mammogram:

A screening mammogram is a low dose X-ray that can reveal breast cancer years before it can be felt as a lump. A screening mammogram takes about 30 minutes and involves two views of each breast. It is for patients with no abnormal breast symptoms.

To schedule an appointment at Yampa Valley Medical Center's Gloria Gossard Breast Health Center call 970-871-2399. If you would like to speak directly with the breast health nurse navigator call 970-875-2623.

— When facing the possibility of a breast cancer diagnosis, Yampa Valley Medical Center’s Frannie Johnson is there to walk a patient through the next steps.

A breast health nurse navigator in the Gloria Gossard Breast Health Center at YVMC, Johnson steps in when a person is facing a possible or confirmed diagnosis and helps them understand their prognosis and what’s next in terms of appointments, tests and procedures.

“There’s a lot of people that you need to meet with if you do get diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Johnson, who shifted into her role as a nurse navigator in January after working in the hospital’s medical-surgical department.

Johnson previously was a public health nurse at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, where she helped women connect to available breast health resources including help paying for mammograms.

“I like being able to help people,” Johnson said. “It’s really scary getting a breast cancer diagnosis, and it’s a neat experience to have resources, educate them, hold their hand and walk them though that experience.”

Johnson is part of YVMC’s Patient Navigation Program, which also includes oncology and orthopedic nurse navigators, and she’s available to go to appointments with patients, some who might not have local family support.

While YVMC has nearly every service a person could need to treat breast cancer on-site, Johnson is also available to help a patient navigate to another medical office for treatment if they want.

Johnson said that women facing a diagnosis react in many ways but are often afraid.

“Everyone is different. Fear is a huge thing, but everyone is different,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of questions.”

Johnson said she enjoys connecting with the patients and said survivors often go on to become the biggest advocates for preventative care, encouraging their friends and family to get mammograms.

“Preventive screenings catch breast cancer early, and in that case, it’s very treatable,” Johnson said.

YVMC performed 2,672 mammograms during the 2014 fiscal year, up from 2,433 the year before.

Nurse navigators are becoming more common in medical centers across the country than they were even 10 or 20 years ago, Johnson said.

“They’ve been around, but in the last 20 years, there’s been a huge change,” Johnson said. “There’s now a lot of hospitals using navigators.”

The services of a nurse navigator like Johnson are free to patients, and she’s also available to answer questions or address concerns of someone considering preventative screenings.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

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