A nurse navigator—someone with cancer care expertise—will help lung cancer patients navigate treatment for two years at Vancouver General Hospital.

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Vancouver health officials have launched a pilot program aimed at helping people with lung cancer navigate treatment.

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The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority says the Lung Evaluation and Assessment Program will run for two years at Vancouver General Hospital and will employ a nurse navigator, someone with cancer care expertise to support patients, families and caregivers through the treatment process.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada and last year alone more than 3,800 British Columbians were newly diagnosed with the disease, according to BC Cancer.

Dr. John Yee, head of Thoracic Surgery at VGH and UBC Hospital, said receiving a lung cancer diagnosis is both an overwhelming and emotionally charged experience for many people.

“Navigating their treatment pathway can be challenging, particularly during the past two year’s of the pandemic. By engaging a nurse navigator to support patients and their families, we have the potential to positively transform this experience for those receiving care,” said Yee, in a statement provided by the health authority Tuesday.

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He said over the two years, doctors will evaluate wait times, length of hospital stays, re-admission rates and indicators of patient wellbeing, to identify ways to improve other cancer programs.

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“This project recognizes the toll a cancer diagnosis takes on patients and families, and partners them with support,” said Adrian Dix, BC’s Health Minister, in a statement.

“Better treatment outcomes and a recovery journey are the goal of the new LEAP project, where a nurse navigator is there every step of the way. You’re not in this alone—you have someone in health care to help.”

Health officials say previous studies have shown a nurse navigator can help with psychosocial concerns and ensure timely access to clinical and diagnostic services.

“Nurse navigators put patients at the forefront, ensuring they retain control and empowering them to make informed decisions,” said Heather Findlay, chief operating officer, BC Cancer, in a statement.

The project was made possible as a result of a $1 million donation from Della and Stuart McLaughlin to VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation.

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