Helping Navigate Through Breast Cancer

January 2009

The American Cancer Society estimated more than 3,200 women in
Arizona would be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. Such a diagnosis often is accompanied by fear and questions about what lies ahead. Fortunately, if you have been diagnosed, you aren’t alone—Cancer Centers of Northern Arizona Healthcare has two breast health navigators to help.


As a breast cancer survivor, oncology nurse Nancy Foreman, B.S.N., knows about breast cancer firsthand. Now, as a breast health navigator, she helps other women through their journey.

“The amount of available information about tests, treatments and postsurgical are can be overwhelming,” Foreman said. “Often the patient is given a choice between a lumpectomy with radiation or a mastectomy with or without reconstruction and so much more. There also may be decisions about hormone therapy, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. These are some tough decisions.”

There are so many different and ongoing decisions to be made after being diagnosed with cancer. Every case of breast cancer is as unique as the woman experiencing it, so the role of a breast health navigator adapts to meet each woman’s needs.

“There isn’t a simple way to define what we do as breast health navigators,” Foreman said. “We work with each woman after diagnosis and help her understand the path ahead, from treatment options to the accompanying emotions.”

For Lori Smith, the breast health navigators have been a self-described godsend. Just days after celebrating her 40th birthday, Smith was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“When I found the lump, I had a feeling that something wasn’t right,” Smith said. “But when I was diagnosed, it was still such a shock. Nancy Foreman called me after my diagnosis and talked with me about what to expect and her own personal experience. She was great about listening to my feelings and my emotions and helping me each step of the way.”

Smith initially underwent a lumpectomy. The tissue removed from her breast contained an aggressive form of cancer, requiring her to have a mastectomy of one breast. Because of her family history of cancer and the aggressiveness of the cancer she was diagnosed with, Smith chose to have a double mastectomy (both breasts) to reduce the chance of recurrence. Following surgery, she went through seven weeks of radiation, six months of chemotherapy and ongoing medication therapy.

Nancy has followed me through my journey,” Smith said. “I can’t say enough about the help she gave me. My mission once I’ve finished my treatment is to become as involved as possible with the breast health navigator program at FMC. I want to give back to the people who gave me so much.”


For more information about the Cancer Centers of Northern Arizona Healthcare, visit