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Published on April 22, 2013

Breast Center Nurse Raises Awareness For Patient Advocacy

COLUMBIA, Mo. - As the nurse navigator in Ellis Fischel Cancer Center's breast center, Dawn Frederick, R.N., believes it's important for every breast cancer patient to have an advocate.

Each cancer diagnosis is a stressful experience. Patients confront their fears, learn the complexities of their disease, and fight cancer through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. However, breast cancer brings unique challenges.

            "Whether a patient is male or female, there are many emotional aspects that come with a  cancer diagnosis," Frederick said. "Women breast cancer patients especially confront issues of self-image as they face the possibility of losing a breast to mastectomy or losing their hair as a side effect of chemotherapy."

            Many cancer patients also have their family roles reversed, as well. It can be difficult for people who are used to caring for their family members to be dependent suddenly on others' help.

            "Patients often tell me that receiving a cancer diagnosis is a life changing event in so many ways," Frederick said.

            This week, Frederick wants to raise awareness for the important of patient advocacy. The American Hospital Association's Society for Healthcare Consumer Advocacy recognizes Monday, April 22, to Saturday, April 27, as Patient Advocacy Week.

            During cancer treatment, it's important for patients to have advocates - both family and friends, and health care professionals - who help them through their experiences.           

"Health care is so complex that it almost can seem like you're learning a different language," Frederick said. "I'm here to help patients understand their treatment options, to find answers to their questions, to help them schedule appointments and to provide emotional support. Emotional support is so important because it can give patients hope and optimism, something research shows helps patients heal faster."

Ellis Fischel Cancer Center's breast health program is the only breast center in mid-Missouri to be accredited by the American College of Surgeons' National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers. The accreditation recognizes the center's commitment as a comprehensive breast center to screening, treatment, research and community outreach. Ellis Fischel's breast health program includes a team of surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists who treat cancer using the most advanced techniques, as well as a nurse navigator, genetic counselor and rehabilitation therapists who help guide patients through treatment and survivorship.

For more information about the breast center, visit