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Saint Clare's thyroid nurse navigator guides, educates patients

Monday October 7, 2013
At right, Candace Larkins, RN, helps perform a thryroid screening at a recent community health fair.
At right, Candace Larkins, RN, helps perform a thryroid screening at a recent community health fair.
(Photo courtesy of Saint Clare's Health System)
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As thyroid nurse navigator at Saint Clare's Health System's Thyroid Cancer Treatment Center in Denville, N.J., Candace Larkins, RN, deals every day with a condition that produces more than 60,000 new cases a year.

To bring attention to the problem, ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors' Association, Inc., declared September as Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month. On its website, ThyCa noted the American Cancer Society estimate of about 60,220 new cases of thyroid cancer in the U.S. in 2013, with 45,310 in women and 14,910 in men.

Larkins started her career in thyroid cancer nursing nine years ago, according to a news release. While she was working at Saint Clare's as a radiology nurse, physician Jeffrey Plutchok, director of Saint Clare's nuclear medicine program, approached her about joining the Thyroid Cancer Treatment Center team. The program started small with about six patients a month and now has four to six patients each week. More than 1,000 patients have been treated at the center.

About four years ago, Larkins became a thyroid nurse navigator. She gives patients personal attention, establishes trust, confidence and a good rapport, and uses a holistic approach. She educates patients about each step of the treatment process and schedules the patients so she can be with them during treatment.

When a 33-year-old man was mugged and punched in the jaw earlier this year, a CT scan found he had an 8-cm thyroid nodule, a shock because he had shown no symptoms. He was referred to the Thyroid Cancer Treatment Center, where Larkins was the first person he met to review the treatment plan and guide him through the program.

One goal of Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month is education, especially in early detection. Neck checks, which only take a minute, should be done when patients visit their physician, dentist or gynecologist.

Anyone can perform the simple check by looking in the mirror and swallowing water. If there is a nodule, a person may be able to see it and feel it.

FOR INFORMATION, visit ThyCa.org/Awareness.htm or SaintClares.org/Thyroid-Oncology.


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