Q: What types of issues are appropriate to discuss with my Advocate/coach?

A Your Cancer Advocate is prepared to address an extensive list of issues that arise during the journey through cancer. Questions may relate to clinical, financial, emotional, spiritual, or functional issues. When a question is outside of your CA’s expertise, he or she will refer you to a trusted resource that possesses specific knowledge about the issue you have raised.

Q: When can a CA be most beneficial?

A: An Advocate brings a fresh perspective plus innumerable resources that can benefit patients and their loved ones at any point in the cancer journey. Many people find advocacy/coaching particularly valuable when:

  • First learning of their diagnosis and struggling to make critically important decisions regarding the selection of their care team, as well as participation with their doctors in shared decision making regarding treatment options
  • Attending the first consultations with specialists to learn more about their disease and options
  • Adjusting to the rigors of active treatment, as well as the disruptions to one’s life
  • Completing treatment and either experiencing angst over fear of recurrence or over reentry into life
  • Dealing with recurrence and the need for subsequent treatment
  • The goals of treatment change from cure to control or comfort

Q: How does the Cancer Advocate measure his or her success?:

A: Cancer Advocates measure their success by gauging the patient’s progress across a number of measures, including:

  • Improvement in quality of life and life satisfaction
  • Diminished distress, anxiety, or depression
  • Increased health literacy to better understand and converse effectively with doctors and nurses
  • Potential improvements in the patient’s functional status
  • Potential improvement in clinical outcomes due to increased compliance with the treatment plan

Beyond these goals, Cancer Advocates work with patients to ensure that a focus also remains on their broader life goals, including: professional aspirations, relationship issues, financial objectives, and spiritual/faith issues, among other concerns.

Q: What type of medical advice will the Cancer Advocate provide?

A: None. The Advocate is not a clinician, and thus will direct you to the most appropriate resources from which/whom to get answers. An advocate can help you formulate the right questions to ask of your doctors—often resulting in more satisfying and efficient discussions.

Q: What is the difference between a Cancer Advocate and a counselor?

A: Both professionals are concerned with the well-being of their clients. Whereas a counselor normally refers to a licensed mental health professional, an Advocate is focused on the full spectrum of issues that impact how you successfully navigate the journey through cancer. Cancer Advocates focus on empowering their clients with actionable information and resources. They will address cancer-induced distress, but will refer patients to mental health professionals when more serious, underlying issues are identified.

Q: Do I need a Cancer Advocate if I have access to a nurse navigator?

A: Nurse navigators can be invaluable in ensuring continuity of care while improving patients’ ability to navigate the system, which is why your Cancer Advocate will work closely with your navigator (or connect you to one if needed). The Advocate’s job, however, encompasses a broad array of responsibilities designed to ensure that you have the resources, knowledge, skills, and tools needed to manage the journey through cancer.    

Q: How long do advocacy/coaching sessions last, and how often would I meet with my Cancer Advocate?

A: The operative word in the relationship between the Cancer Advocate and the patient/family caregiver is flexibility. Interventions must be tailored to meet the needs of all. Formal advocacy/coaching sessions are generally one hour in length and can be conducted in person, over the phone, or by using Skype. The frequency is based upon your needs. Patients may also wish to establish a relationship that involves e-mail and other forms of shorter, yet more frequent contact.

Q: Will my insurance cover my Cancer Advocate?

A: In all probability, no, this will be an out-of-pocket expense … though conversations are under way with insurance companies and major employers regarding coverage.