Routine breast and cervical cancer screenings aid in the early detection and diagnosis of cancer. However, for women who face socioeconomic hardships and are under- or uninsured, preventative cancer screening may be a luxury which they cannot afford. A recent study published in the journal, JAMA Internal Medicine, suggests that patient navigators play a critical role in helping women access gynecological cancer screening.

Patient navigators are individuals who work alongside patients and assist them in making appropriate healthcare choices, provide information and education relevant to their needs, and advocate on their behalf [2]. Oftentimes, patients may need access to health information in their native language, assistance in arranging transportation to-and-from appointments, or simply someone to accompany them to their visit. In this study, patients who were overdue for routine breast, cancer, and colon cancer screening were randomized into two groups: One group of patients was provided access to a patient navigator, the other group received typical notifications of overdue screening by phone or electronic reminders. The study authors found that patients who had access to a patient navigator were more likely to complete their cancer screening than those who did not.   

Kristin Smith, a patient navigator within the Northwestern Medical Group, is not surprised by these results. She states, “Having one person to help break down the complexities of healthcare can make or break the experience that a patient has in a hospital or physician’s office.”

 “By enabling a patient through a navigator, hospital systems can more readily serve immediate patient needs,” shares Smith. Thus, integration of patient navigators within interdisciplinary healthcare teams may lead to improved quality of care for all.  


  1. Percac-Lima et al., JAMA Intern Med. 2016. 1;176(7):930-7.
  2. American Medical Association