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J Clin Oncol. 2014 Jan 1;32(1):12-8. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2013.51.7359. Epub 2013 Nov 25.

Nurse navigators in early cancer care: a randomized, controlled trial.

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Edward H. Wagner, MacColl Center for Health Care Innovation; Edward H. Wagner, Evette J. Ludman, Erin J. Aiello Bowles, Robert Penfold, Robert J. Reid, Carolyn M. Rutter, and Jessica Chubak, Group Health Research Institute; Robert Penfold and Jessica Chubak, University of Washington; Robert J. Reid, Group Health Permanente, Seattle, WA; and Ruth McCorkle, Yale University, New Haven, CT.



To determine whether a nurse navigator intervention improves quality of life and patient experience with care for people recently given a diagnosis of breast, colorectal, or lung cancer.


Adults with recently diagnosed primary breast, colorectal, or lung cancer (n = 251) received either enhanced usual care (n = 118) or nurse navigator support for 4 months (n = 133) in a two-group cluster randomized, controlled trial with primary care physicians as the units of randomization. Patient-reported measures included the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-General (FACT-G) Quality of Life scale, three subscales of the Patient Assessment of Chronic Illness Care (PACIC), and selected subscales from a cancer adaptation of the Picker Institute's patient experience survey. Self-report measures were collected at baseline, 4 months, and 12 months. Automated administrative data were used to assess time to treatment and total health care costs.


There were no significant differences between groups in FACT-G scores. Nurse navigator patients reported significantly higher scores on the PACIC and reported significantly fewer problems with care, especially psychosocial care, care coordination, and information, as measured by the Picker instrument. Cumulative costs after diagnosis did not differ significantly between groups, but lung cancer costs were $6,852 less among nurse navigator patients.


Compared with enhanced usual care, nurse navigator support for patients with cancer early in their course improves patient experience and reduces problems in care, but did not differentially affect quality of life.

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