Komen St. Louis Community Partner: Mercy Hospital Washington’s Breast Health Navigator Program

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When women have an annual screening mammogram, the hope is for good news. But for those who learn they need further testing, the rest of the appointment can seem like a blur.

Thanks to funding from Komen St. Louis, women at Mercy Hospital Washington are guided through the process by a nurse navigator. The navigator facilitates tests, consultations and treatment; locates support services; and maintains contact throughout treatment.

“I am introduced to a patient when it is determined that she needs additional testing or a surgical consultation,” says Debbie Vietmeier, breast health navigator for Mercy Hospital Washington. “Before she leaves, I make contact with her doctor, schedule any biopsy procedure and/or make an appointment with a surgeon, and she leaves with a plan of action.”

This program can help women increase compliance with treatment plans and reduce wait times between diagnosis and treatment, which can enhance chances of survival and improve quality of life. This is the fourth year of Komen St. Louis funding for this program.

“I give women not-so-happy news and yet I often get a hug at the end of the consultation,” says Debbie. “They are thankful to leave with a plan instead of worrying about which doctor to call first.”

Along with helping patients navigate the health care system, Debbie also offers assistance with travel and mammograms, thanks to Komen St. Louis.

“Travel can be a barrier to providing care if a patient cannot afford the cost of gas. When that happens, I am able to provide a Komen St. Louis-funded gas card to help that patient make it in for a mammogram or follow-up treatment,” says Debbie. “The Komen money we receive allows us to help women in our community.”

In 2012, Komen St. Louis granted nearly $3.1 million to 25 local breast health programs in our 17-county Missouri/Illinois service area, including the Breast Health Navigator Program at Mercy Hospital Washington. These grants help fund breast health and breast cancer screening, treatment, education and support services for those in our community who otherwise may not have access due to low income, lack of insurance or other barriers.

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