Written by Shannon Pidlubny
A unique prostate cancer support program is slated to launch this month in Toronto and the Vancouver area.
Pairing specially trained prostate cancer survivors, or ‘peer navigators’, with newly diagnosed patients, the Peer Empowered Partnership in Prostate Cancer program aims to help men navigate the healthcare system and provide psychological support.
Professor Dr. Arminée Kazanjian
Run by School of Population and Public Health (SPPH) Professor Arminée Kazanjian in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, it is the first competency-based program in Canada to pair men who have survived prostate cancer with patients, Dr. Kazanjian says. This is important because older men are often uncomfortable talking about their illness and concerns, she says.
“In the medical office, patients don’t ask the questions they might of a peer.”
Professor Arminée Kazanjian
Slated to start this month, the program will recruit 15 men who have completed treatments more than two years ago, from the community and cancer support groups in each region, and will provide six weeks of training. This training involves eight modules teaching 65 competencies, including skills such as empathetic listening and practical assistance. This sets the program apart, Dr. Kazanjian says, as does the program’s structure when it comes to contact: patients and navigators are matched online and if patients do not contact their navigator, the navigator makes initial online contact with the patient.
With patient recruitment aimed for early next year, the navigators will be paired with three to five newly diagnosed patients based on criteria the patients indicate are important for them, such as age and type of treatment received.
For four to six months, these navigators will interact with the patients online, via telephone, or in-person, providing them with information and resources housed on a secure online platform, steering patients towards reliable information of interest to them. They will act more like a “buddy” than a health care professional to provide support, a necessary component of staying healthy and coping with cancer, Dr. Kazanjian says.
The peer navigators have important perspectives to share, having undergone treatment themselves, and could provide informed support when it came to topics men often find difficult to discuss. “All of the prostate cancer treatments have consequences and benefits but men don’t talk about urinary or sexual challenges, which have a huge impact on regretting their decision later.”
“It’s important for them to hear from other men how it is.”
Professor Arminée Kazanjian
Outcomes regarding the training of the navigators as well as patient-oriented outcomes will be measured to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. This will involve navigator questionnaires for each module, a final questionnaire about the skills they have learned, and a patient questionnaire about health and quality of life.
This work was awarded by Prostate Cancer Canada and is funded by the Movember Foundation.
You can find out more information here.
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