Buddy Check 25: Breast Health Navigator

By WEEK Producer

November 25, 2013 Updated Nov 25, 2013 at 8:56 PM CDT

A breast cancer diagnosis can leave you and your loved ones with a lot of questions. In fact, you may not even know what you don't know.

That is when a breast health navigator, a specially trained nurse, can really help.

Just two weeks ago, Jill Savage heard the words 'you have breast cancer.'

"Now, my mother, my grandmother, my aunt have all had breast cancer. So, I knew that genetics were probably not in my favor, but I certainly didn't expect that at 49," Savage said.

Still, the motivational speaker and founder of Hearts at Home is embracing this new reality by arming herself with knowledge.

"Knowledge is power and having Jolene on my team, I'm starting to gather my power team, and she's really a source of knowledge," she said.

Jolene is breast health navigator Jolene Clifford of the Twin Cities Community Cancer Center. She is certified to help patients better understand their diagnosis and make informed choices about treatment.

"To explain to them well a little about chemotherapy, side effects, radiation and what to anticipate, what the process is," Clifford said.

Consultations with a breast health navigator are provided for free at the Community Cancer Center.

Clifford is an information resource whether it is answering questions about potential treatments, medications, what insurance will or won't cover or even providing assistance for transportation. She must understand all aspects of care that a breast cancer patient might endure.

"That's really what my role is, to help them navigate or find their way through this health care maze," Clifford said.

"I'm finding that I have some choices to make and they're not just telling me what I need to do. They're advising and suggesting, but there are options out there that I need to consider," Savage said.

It is a team approach between the patient, her physicians and the breast health navigator. And research shows that this "power team" approach increases survivor rates for patients like Jill.