Patient navigation in breast cancer: a systematic review

Cancer Nurs. Mar-Apr 2010;33(2):127-40. doi: 10.1097/NCC.0b013e3181c40401.


Background: The role of the patient navigator in cancer care and specifically in breast cancer care has grown to incorporate many titles and functions.

Objective: To better evaluate the outcomes of patient navigation in breast cancer care, a comprehensive review of empiric literature detailing the efficacy of breast cancer navigation on breast cancer outcomes (screening, diagnosis, treatment, and participation in clinical research) was performed.

Methods: Published articles were reviewed if published in the scientific literature between January 1990 and April 2009. Searches were conducted using PubMed and Ovid databases. Search terms included MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) terms, "patient navigator," "navigation," "breast cancer," and "adherence."

Results: Data-based literature indicates that the role of patient navigation is diverse with multiple roles and targeted populations. Navigation across many aspects of the breast cancer disease trajectory improves adherence to breast cancer care. The empiric review found that navigation interventions have been more commonly applied in breast cancer screening and early diagnosis than for adherence to treatment.

Conclusion: There is evidence supporting the role of patient navigation in breast cancer to improve many aspects of breast cancer care.

Implications for practice: Data describing the role of patient navigation in breast cancer will assist in better defining future direction for the breast navigation role. Ongoing research will better inform issues related to role definition, integration into clinical breast cancer care, impact on quality of life, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • African Americans / ethnology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms* / ethnology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Case Management / organization & administration*
  • Continuity of Patient Care / organization & administration*
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / organization & administration*
  • Healthcare Disparities / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Nursing Evaluation Research
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Patient Advocacy*
  • Patient Compliance
  • Professional Role
  • Quality of Life
  • Research Design
  • Total Quality Management
  • United States