Medical Minute 8-11: Healthcare GPS: Patient Navigators

By: Vanessa Welch Email
By: Vanessa Welch Email

Maria Gloria Sanchez likes to spend quality time in the kitchen with her family.

She said, "thank God, I'm here."

Maria wasn't sure she would be after finding out she had breast cancer a few years ago. Hispanic women have lower rates of breast cancer compared to white and black women. Still, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Latinas. Maria's daughter did not want her mom to become a statistic.

"We have never been exposed to anything like that."

Low screening participation is one reason Hispanic women are more likely to be diagnosed at a more advanced stage. Language barriers with their doctors can make things even worse.
But right after Maria was diagnosed, she was contacted by a *patient navigator* or promotora.

Bi-lingual, bi-cultural patient navigators like Guadalupe Cornejo are stationed at cancer centers in a handful of U.S. cities with large Latino populations. They're helping Hispanics with cancer fill out important medical forms, make doctors appointments, arrange transportation for treatment

"…or just provide that emotional support. A lot of patients do like that you know," said Guadalupe Cornejo, patient navigator.

"Patient navigators are out there saving lives," said Sandra San Miguel de Majors, M.S., Institute for Health Promotion Research.

Sandra San Miguel De Majors of the Institute for Health and Promotion Research in San Antonio, Texas helped develop the patient navigator project. The goal is to ensure Latinos get timely and potentially life saving cancer care.

"A lot of them don't speak English, so there's a lot of fears and myths."

Rudy Gamboa says his cultural connection to Guadalupe … helps him feel less fearful dealing with colon cancer.

"I know that if I have any questions or if I need anything I can always call her and ask her and she'll be there," said Rudy Gamboa, Colon Cancer Patient,

Maria is now cancer free but stills turns to Guadalupe for help and she's happy to make house calls.

For more information on other series produced by Ivanhoe Broadcast News contact John Cherry at (407) 691-1500,


BACKGROUND: According to the US Census Bureau, 45.5 million Americans, or 15% of the total U.S. population, identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino in 2007. Cancers for which rates are higher in Hispanics include stomach, cervix, liver, acute lymphocytic leukemia, and gallbladder. Language barrier has been a bug issue when it comes to a cancer diagnosis. The presence of patient navigation can be effective to remove barriers that limit the access to care in minority populations and can improve outcomes in Hispanic patients suffering from cancer. (Source:

PROMOTORAS (PATIENT NAVIGATORS): In 2005, The National Cancer Institute awarded $25 million in 5-year grants to eight research institutions across the country. The goal was to develop innovative Patient Navigator Research Programs (PNRP) to help minorities and underserved cancer patients. Patient navigators help patients and their families manage cancer diagnoses and overcome barriers to obtaining timely and appropriate cancer care and treatment. The program focuses on four cancers for which screening tests are available: breast, cervical, prostate, and colorectal. (SOURCE:

THE FOUCUS: The program focuses on cancer patients from racial/ethnic minority groups, patients with low socioeconomic status, and patients from medically underserved areas. (SOURCE:

LANCE ARMSTRONG FOUNDATION: The Lance Armstrong Foundation recently launched a Spanish version of the website to provide Spanish information on the common physical, emotional day-to-day concerns of Hispanic/Latino cancer survivors. also provides a path for survivors to connect with LiveStrong's free cancer survivor support services, along with one-on-one counseling services and help with financial, employment or insurance concerns. Plus, there is information about treatment options and connecting to new treatments in development.(SOURCE:

For More Information, Contact:

Cliff Despres
Communications Manager
The Institute for Health Promotion Research,
(210) 562-6517

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