Patient Navigation in Breast Cancer Treatment and Survivorship: A Systematic Review

J Clin Oncol. 2016 Oct 20;34(30):3686-3696. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2016.67.5454.


Purpose: Patient navigation is an intervention approach that improves cancer outcomes by reducing barriers and facilitating timely access to cancer care. Little is known about the benefits of patient navigation during breast cancer treatment and survivorship. This systematic review evaluates the efficacy of patient navigation in improving treatment and survivorship outcomes in women with breast cancer.

Methods: The review included experimental and quasi-experimental studies of patient navigation programs that target breast cancer treatment and breast cancer survivorship. Articles were systematically obtained through electronic database searches of PubMed/MEDLINE, PsycINFO, Web of Science, CINAHL, and Cochrane Library. The Effective Public Health Practice Project Quality Assessment Tool was used to evaluate the methodologic quality of individual studies.

Results: Thirteen studies met the inclusion criteria. Most were of moderate to high quality. Outcomes targeted included timeliness of treatment initiation, adherence to cancer treatment, and adherence to post-treatment surveillance mammography. Heterogeneity of outcome assessments precluded a meta-analysis. Overall, results demonstrated that patient navigation increases surveillance mammography rates, but only minimal evidence was found with regard to its effectiveness in improving breast cancer treatment outcomes.

Conclusion: This study is the most comprehensive systematic review of patient navigation research focused on improving breast cancer treatment and survivorship. Minimal research has indicated that patient navigation may be effective for post-treatment surveillance; however, more studies are needed to draw definitive conclusions about the efficacy of patient navigation during and after cancer treatment.