Sycamore Shoals offering new program for cancer patients

Published 9:31 am Monday, November 2, 2015

Contributed Photo/ Nathan Mays Karen Peña will direct and assist all types of cancer patients as the new Triumph Cancer Navigator at Sycamore Shoals Hospital.

Contributed Photo/ Nathan Mays Karen Peña will direct and assist all types of cancer patients as the new Triumph Cancer Navigator at Sycamore Shoals Hospital.

Karen Peña is excited to fill the brand new position of community cancer navigator at Sycamore Shoals Hospital. She will be coordinating free support services for residents of Carter, Johnson and Unicoi Counties through every aspect of the cancer diagnosis and treatment process.
“I hope that people will be able to get the treatment they need when they otherwise may not have been able to, and hopefully they won’t have to worry about their financial situation, because that’s just an added stress on top of being sick,” she said.
Her duties will include communicating with doctors, coordinating transportation, setting up appointment reminders and providing emotional support for patients and their caregivers. She will also assist with coordinating support services for treatment planning, prosthesis selection and nutrition counseling, as well as identifying resources for spiritual care and financial aid.
Peña said two of the biggest needs of patients battling cancer are transportation and financial assistance.
When her father was fighting hodgkins lymphoma, she was able to take time off from work to go with him to his appointments at the Regional Cancer Center, and then later, her family and friends were able to go with him.
“That’s something that not everybody has, so I’m hoping that if they don’t have those friends and family members, that I can connect them to people who can do that,” she said.
The new Triumph Cancer Navigator program is unique in its magnitude, scope and accessibility, Peña said. It is free and open to all patients from other healthcare providers, and there is not requirement to receive treatment at Mountain States Health Alliance to participate.
“Mountain States has offered nurse navigators for several years,” said Alan Levine, president and CEO of Mountain States. “But Triumph takes cancer navigation to the next level by opening it up to all types of cancer and to all patients, no matter where they receive their treatment. The major investment into deploying these professionals throughout the region opens access and creates opportunities to reach patients in their communities.”
The community navigator will also work with groups in the community to promote screenings, early detection and cancer prevention.
Peña has 16 years of experience in community pharmacy with Union Pharmacy and taught a pharmacy program at Ross Medical Education. She completed George Washington Cancer Institute Patient Navigation training and is eager to work with the program after seeing how well her father was treated in his fight against cancer.
Similarly, Levine remembers his father’s battle with cancer. “Seemingly simple questions like, ‘What comes next?’ often went unanswered. We didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t know how to handle minor problems, which they had the potential to become major problems. We just needed someone to call. Drawing on my own experience, I can say with certainty this program is one of the most important priorities for our system.”
For more information or to get involved in the program as a patient, provider, community organization or individual, contact Peña at 423-542-7464.

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