Patient navigation: an update on the state of the science

CA Cancer J Clin. 2011 Jul-Aug;61(4):237-49. doi: 10.3322/caac.20111. Epub 2011 Jun 9.


Although patient navigation was introduced 2 decades ago, there remains a lack of consensus regarding its definition, the necessary qualifications of patient navigators, and its impact on the continuum of cancer care. This review provides an update to the 2008 review by Wells et al on patient navigation. Since then, there has been a significant increase in the number of published studies dealing with cancer patient navigation. The authors of the current review conducted a search by using the keywords "navigation" or "navigator" and "cancer." Thirty-three articles published from November 2007 through July 2010 met the search criteria. Consistent with the prior review, there is building evidence of some degree of efficacy of patient navigation in terms of increasing cancer screening rates. However, there is less recent evidence concerning the benefit of patient navigation with regard to diagnostic follow-up and in the treatment setting, and a paucity of research focusing on patient navigation in cancer survivorship remains. Methodological limitations were noted in many studies, including small sample sizes and a lack of control groups. As patient navigation programs continue to develop across North America and beyond, further research will be required to determine the efficacy of cancer patient navigation across all aspects of the cancer care continuum.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Continuity of Patient Care
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States