Grant Application

Jonas Johnson, MD, Eye & Ear Institute–Shadyside Campus

Proposed Innovation

A head and neck cancer diagnosis can be devastating to patients and their families. Patients may experience treatment-related side effects that can impair their ability to eat, swallow, and breathe. They often become so sick with vomiting, nausea, dehydration, and pain that they end up in the emergency department.

This project aims to reduce hospital readmission among outpatients while also helping patients cope with the adverse effects of radiation, chemotherapy, and other treatments.

Improvements in Action

Survivorship, which begins at diagnosis and continues through treatment and beyond, means learning to live with a new normal. Through this project, a nurse navigator will work closely with these survivors to help them understand and manage their symptoms.

The nurse navigator will monitor patients for side effects from the start of treatment through recovery, which is usually around week 12. Meeting three times weekly with patients when they come in for radiation treatment, the nurse will use a proven symptom index to ask questions about mucus in the throat, difficulty swallowing, skin pain, mouth sores, and taste problems. A doctor will intervene when the index indicates a two-point increase in symptoms.

Intended Outcomes

In addition to reducing hospital readmissions, this project is expected to result in improved symptom management and quality of life for head and neck cancer survivors.