"It was shocking to me," says Jignya about her diagnosis of breast cancer. "I had my annual mammogram and then had to go back for a biopsy. I still thought I'm fine, nothing was wrong, and then I got a call from my primary care physician. I was not ready for that diagnosis, and I didn't know what to do."
This year, about 30% of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be breast cancer. Jignya was one of these women, and she sought her care at Mount Nittany Health.
Jignya wondered how much her treatment would cost and worried whether she had adequate insurance, at an appointment. She saw the business card of Angelique Cygan, a Mount Nittany Health breast health navigator. She reached out to Angelique right away.
As a navigator, Angelique serves as an advocate, educator, consultant, and liaison, helping patients at every step in their journey after a breast cancer diagnosis. She provided Jignya with reading materials before her surgery, and she helped Jignya apply for financial assistance. "That helped me a lot because I was at the beginning of my journey," Jignya says. "She helped me every step of the way."
Angelique says that Jignya's navigation journey illustrates how some patients fall below "navigational radar." Because Jignya is healthy and active, works full time, drives, and has good health insurance, she seems like someone who might not need navigation support. "Most likely," Angelique says, "she would not have come to my attention until the end of treatment, when the bills begin to pile up. But through navigation assessment, I found several ways to help Jignya on her journey immediately after diagnosis."
One issue was insurance and finances. "Jignya was healthy, so her very high health insurance deductible hadn't been used. The subsequent cancer care cost was unmanageable for her," explains Angelique. "Sometimes patients have insurance plans with deductibles they have difficulty paying while also keeping up with monthly bills. In that case, we work with the Mount Nittany Health Foundation to help offset the costs and ease that burden." Sadly, research consistently shows that financial toxicities—difficulties that result from medical costs—are a real problem for people living with cancer, affecting their ability to seek necessary medical care.
Angelique also helped Jignya organize questions about her medical treatment, and she helped her organize daily radiation treatments around her work schedule. "I've had more than 20 navigational encounters with Jignya," Angelique says. "She always knew that support from her navigator was only a phone call, e-mail, or visit away."
Jignya, who has now completed surgery and radiation, recommends the navigation program to anyone facing a difficult diagnosis. "Everybody should be given this information so they know there's someone who can help you early in your journey," she says. "Those beginning days are very hard—you're struggling physically and mentally. Eventually you know you have to go through this and you accept the reality, but in the beginning days it's very hard to accept. To have somebody like Angelique is so valuable."
Thankfully, Angelique is dedicated to helping breast cancer patients wherever they are on their cancer journey! Her role is to improve overall care while focusing on patient needs that interfere with treatment. She provides patients with valuable emotional support and guidance during their breast cancer treatment and diagnosis.
The Mount Nittany Health Foundation proudly invests donor funds to support Angelique, the cancer navigation program, and cancer patients. For more information about how Mount Nittany Health strives to advance patient care and outcomes for healthier people and stronger communities, please visit foundation.mountnittany.org or call 814.234.6777.