New diagnostic assessment program launched in London and Owen Sound

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”  This quote, penned by the late John Lennon, resonates with Carole Hanks.  Carole understands how easy it can be to get caught up in daily activities and dismiss signals of ailing health.

Following a bout of pneumonia last fall, Carole Hanks went to visit her family doctor in Owen Sound.  During a routine checkup, the doctor noticed a wheezing sound in Carole’s chest and sent her for additional testing.  Though she admits to feeling tired, Carole was not prepared for the news she received.  The tests revealed a mass at the top of her left lung.  Further examination confirmed that the mass was a malignant tumour.

Unfortunately, Carole’s story is not uncommon.  According to Cancer Care Ontario, an estimated 25,300 Canadians will be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2011 and 20,600 will die of it. Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women.

In an effort to assist patients with lung cancer such as Carole, the South West Regional Cancer Program has launched the thoracic Diagnostic Assessment Program (DAP) in London and Owen Sound.  DAPs have been mandated by the Ministry of Health via Cancer Care Ontario to help reduce the amount of stress experienced by the patient, and to coordinate care.

“The time from when my doctors suspected something was wrong, to my actual diagnosis was very nerve-wracking,” admits Carole.  “The DAP provided me with a nurse navigator who guided me through my journey.  It was comforting to have one person looking out for me.”

DAPs are characterized by patient-centered care and provide a single point of access for diagnostic services.  They coordinate and streamline the referral and follow up systems, while establishing and monitoring quality indicators.  Through the DAP, doctors are able to gain access to diagnostic tests and results for their patients in a timely manner.

“The implementation of the Program will help to ensure patients receive care as close to home as possible,” says Sue Stein, Nurse Navigator at the South West Regional Cancer Program.   “Being close to home with friends and family is important for patients faced with a distressing situation.”

For patients like Carole, the DAP provided the supports necessary to deal with the unexpected journey that halted her life.  “My nurse navigator was there to explain my treatment path to me,” says Carole.  “She even came to visit me while I was in the hospital.  It was great to meet face-to-face.”

The South West Regional Cancer Program plans to launch the colorectal DAP in the spring of 2012.  Lessons learned through the thoracic DAP will be applied to the successful implementation of the colorectal program.