Published On: November 3rd, 2022Categories: Cancer News

You or your loved one has just been given the news, it’s cancer.

You proceed to read every online article about the disease. It soon feels like a waterfall of events, from doctor’s visits to lab tests and x-rays.

In the middle of all this, you are told that there is a navigator who can help you.

Just what is a navigator?

Cancer care today is complex. With ongoing advances in screening, diagnosis, and treatment, it can become difficult for patients and caregivers to understand and navigate the plan of care.

Definition of Navigate

  1. To travel by water; sail …navigated down to the mouth of the river
  2. To steer a course through a medium; specifically to operate an airplane ...navigate by instrument
  3. Get around; move …was well enough to navigate under his own power


Cancer care navigation has been developed and formalized over the last 30 years. Many oncology nurses have taken on the role of Oncology Nurse Navigator (ONN) to help those facing cancer navigate the “rough waters” of care, especially with a new diagnosis.

Breaking barriers is the essence of cancer navigation.

  • Healthcare system barriers may arise for patients & caregivers trying to make multiple appointments in a variety of locations
  • Lack of knowledge is a barrier for patients & caregivers, often overwhelmed with information
  • Other barriers include fear, anxiety, as well as psychosocial issues around family, finance/work, and emotional stress

The role of the Oncology Nurse Navigator has been defined by the professional society as:

“a professional RN with oncology-specific clinical knowledge who offers individualized assistance to patients, families, and caregivers to help overcome healthcare system barriers.

Using the nursing process, an ONN provides education and resources to facilitate informed decision making and timely access to quality health and psychosocial care throughout all phases of the cancer continuum.”

Source: Oncology Nursing Society

Navigation Definition — Revisited

  1. To travel by water
    As navigators, it is our mission to help you and your family through the particularly rough waters from diagnosis through treatment.
  2. To steer a course through a medium
    We want to help you develop the tools for self care, so you can begin to feel confident about the plan and traveling the cancer care continuum
  3. Get around, move
    Ultimately, we hope that you will complete the treatment plan, entering the relatively calmer waters of follow up into survivorship.

Frank dela Rama, RN, MS, AOCNS, AGN-BC

Senior Oncology/Cancer Genetics Nurse Navigator at Navvisa