Researchers from the University of Texas (UT) Health San Antonio have found that providing Latinas with breast cancer with a bilingual, bicultural patient navigator can improve access to care and reduce treatment delays. The researchers presented their findings during the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium on Tuesday, December 5.

Latinas have a lower incidence of breast cancer than Caucasian women, but they present with more advanced disease, leading to a higher mortality rate overall. Therefore, it’s critical to identify and implement interventions that reduce time from screening to diagnosis and treatment to manage disease when cure may be possible.

UT Health researchers trained bilingual and bicultural patient navigators to lead Latinas with breast cancer through the healthcare system and address barriers to care, such as financial issues, transportation challenges, child care during treatment, and language and cultural differences.

They found that providing patient navigation from bilingual, bicultural patient navigators reduced times to diagnosis and treatment and increased the proportion of women who initiated treatment. Patients received a diagnosis four times faster and treatment began 1.5 times faster than in women who were not provided with bilingual, bicultural patient navigators. Sixty-nine percent of women who received tailored patient-navigation services initiated treatment within 30 days of a breast cancer diagnosis, and nearly 98% initiated treatment with 60 days.

Women who wait longer than 60 days to begin treatment have a lower overall survival rate as compared with women who begin treatment earlier. Therefore, providing Latinas with a patient navigation program specifically tailored to their needs may reduce disparities overall. Researchers at UT Health San Antonio have taken the lessons learned from their intervention and created a bilingual online manual, “Patient Navigator Manual: Developing and Implementing a Patient Navigator Program.” The manual outlines the steps and provides a comprehensive list of tools to develop a patient-navigation program for Latinas at any organization.