Making the Most of Your Resources and Giving Back Too…Adding an Oncology Nurse Navigator and Participating in Clinical Trials

Your best friend in the hospital – and when you’re discharged – could be as close as the request to have a designated Oncology Nurse Navigator. Rebecca (Becky) Trupp, R.N. has worked hard to make this option a reality at many facilities around the country. This role was introduced in the 90’s and it is now a key player in the healthcare team at most major hospitals.

Seek Out a Nurse Navigator

Breast cancer patients and their families find great comfort with this service. Not only does a Navigator help with medical options and concerns. S/he also serves as an advocate, educator, coach, guide and problem solver.

Navigators are liaisons between the physician and the patient. When the American Society of Clinical Oncology created survivorship guidelines for breast cancer patients, Oncology Nurse Navigators (ONN) moved into the forefront as the champions for well-being.

“Because they are nurses they are adept at also juggling social issues, pathology questions and pain management needs,” says Trupp. “Being there throughout the patient’s journey provides an extra set of eyes, ears and explanations. Along with offering compassion and advice, they strive to avoid  complications and to promote self-care and healing.”

High quality and wholistic care are the driving forces behind ONNs. At the recent national meeting for Nurse Navigators (aonnonline.org) topics included art therapy, aromatherapy, pet therapy and healing touch. Research about genetics, genomics and opioid abuse were also discussed, to raise awareness and to offer resources.

“One bright spot is that since the treatments for breast cancer have changed over time, we can be more proactive about the recovery process,” says Trupp. Personalized medicine, immunotherapies, and engineered T-cells offer additional strategies for breast cancer therapies.

Consider a Clinical Trial

After years of direct patient care, Becky is now a nurse specialist (research) at the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) women’s malignancies branch which studies treatments for women with breast and GYN cancers. Anyone in the world can view the database at ClinicalTrials.gov to see if they are eligible to participate in a study, to help with the quest to prevent and to cure cancer.

More than 290,000 research studies are taking place right now, in all 50 states and in 207 countries. There are risks and potential benefits inherent in clinical trials, so talking with your health care provider before you participate is highly encouraged.  “Within 2-4 weeks we can give interested patients a go or no-go answer once we have everything we need to assess eligibility,” she claims.

Clinical studies can take place in many locations, and the length of the studies varies. Participants are given a great deal of information about what to expect before they enroll in a study.

Common questions to consider are:

  • What is being studied?
  • Why do researchers believe that the trials might be effective?
  • What will I have to do?
  • What tests and procedures are involved?
  • Will hospitalization be required?
  • How long will the study last?
  • Will I receive payment for my participation?
  • Who will oversee my medical care?

“Clinical trials aren’t for everybody, and eligibility requirements can be complex. There are many upsides to participating,” she adds. “As we learn more – we can improve the quality of life for those who follow us.”

Becky Trupp and family

We Spur Each Other Onward

For Becky, listening and learning from patients keeps her optimistic. “Cancer isn’t easy or fun to reckon with,” she says. “But the strength, grace and resilience of the human spirit balances my stress. It keeps me moving forward.” As a dedicated nurse and visionary, she is a national treasure and more.


Eva SooHoo

A mom of 2 amazing teenagers, a corporate executive turned entrepreneur, a runner, a BRCA2 mutation carrier, a previvor, and the founder of Eileen & Eva. You can reach her at eva@eileenandeva.com

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