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Patient Advocacy and Navigation

At the Johns Hopkins Breast Center, we empower our patients with knowledge about their disease and its treatment options so that they can participate in the decisions regarding their care. In 1997, the Breast Center leadership made a conscious decision to incorporate patient advocacy into its programs and services. The first step was to select a breast cancer survivor, Lillie Shockney, R.N., to become the administrative director of our Breast Center. She is also a University Distinguished Service Professor of Breast Cancer in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a professor of surgery and oncology within the School of Medicine.

A patient’s family is also an integral part of her breast cancer treatment. We strive to educate everyone involved in the patient’s care, to reduce anxiety of the patient and her loved ones and create a supportive team here and at home.

Each person involved in a patient’s care is an advocate for that patient. Whether it be scheduling her operation, helping her make decisions about chemotherapy regimens, or making sure that she understands her pathology report, the Breast Center team works with each patient to ensure that her voice is heard.

Patient advocacy is so important that Lillie Shockney has become nationally known for her commitment to patient advocacy. She conducts regional and national seminars for nurses and doctors on how best to advocate for their patients and teach others to do the same.

Preserving Your Life Goals

For decades, really centuries, there has been one goal for treating cancer—that goal has been for the patient to survive her diagnosis and its treatment. Today these goals need to be greatly expanded with a focus on what your life goals are—the patient’s life goals. The treatment team needs to know these goals so that they can be incorporated into the treatment planning process. If you were planning to start or expand your family, then fertility preservation may be needed before chemotherapy gets underway. If you are studying to be a concert pianist, or work as a tax accountant, then the treatment team needs to factor that into the drug selections and use treatments that won’t cause side effects, like peripheral neuropathy (pain, numbness and tingling of the fingers).