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Advancing Breast Cancer Research in British Columbia

October 16, 2013

Breast cancer is responsible for 20-25% of all cancers. Working with expert medical oncologists such as the late Dr. Brian Norris and Dr. Lee Ann Martin, I became acutely aware of the need for rapid diagnosis and timely referral to cancer centres for breast cancer patients.

Around the same time, my daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer just before her 30th birthday. I acted as her cancer journey navigator. Knowing and experiencing the breast cancer patient’s needs from both sides, my conviction to do research to improve the patient’s experience strengthened.

With the help from BC Cancer Foundation and multiple donors, Dr. Norris, Dr. Martin, breast cancer nurse coordinator Ms. Colleen Sherriff and I established the Breast Research to Evaluate Access and Services (BREAST) team and began health service delivery research. A nurse navigation model was established for breast cancer patients with locally advanced breast cancer at the Fraser Valley Centre and a different nurse navigation model was established for patients of all stages diagnosed at the Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre Breast Health Unit.

With the research result, we were able to evaluate and demonstrate the effects of nurse navigation and the impact of the breast health units in Fraser Health Authority. This research platform has provided services to breast cancer patients over the past four years. It has also generated data to prepare for the implementation of the “hub and spoke” model of breast care as recommended by the multi-disciplinary Provincial Breast Health Committee. These improvements in research and care are making a difference for patients across the province.