Why should you advocate for the best care for you? Dr. Smitha Krishnamurthi, a colon cancer specialist from Cleveland Clinic, provides key advice to access better care, including the value of second opinions, and why you should feel empowered to speak up.
Dr. Smitha Krishnamurthi is a gastrointestinal medical oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic. Learn more about Dr. Krishnamurthi here.
What is your advice to patients who may feel like they’re hurting feelings by seeking a specialist or even a second opinion?
I would advise patients to not worry about that at all. I think that any one of us diagnosed with colorectal cancer would want a second opinion, would want to make sure that we’re getting an opinion from a high-volume cancer. Working here are Cleveland Clinic, I have the luxury of focusing on treatment of gastrointestinal cancers, whereas my colleagues who are in the community are treating patients with all different types of cancers. They have to be knowledgeable in all different types of cancers.
I think that’s actually much harder. I think that if your oncologist is not a specialist, the oncologist may actually appreciate having an opinion from a specialist, which helps them as well.
I think that if the doctor is going to be offended, then that’s probably not the right doctor to see. I think it’s important to just advocate for oneself and go for it.
That leads to my next question. What advice do you have about self-advocacy, about speaking up for yourself as a patient?
I think that’s very important to feel comfortable with your treatment team, with the doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner. If you have the luxury where you have choices where you live, seek out somebody who you can really connect with. I think it’s very important for the treating team to know what the patient is going through.
We have to know how the treatment is going so that we’re dosing properly, making adjustments. We want to know what our patient’s goals are so that we’re providing the best quality care.
I think it’s helpful to bring somebody to appointments. Or if you can’t bring somebody, you’ll call them on the phone. We’re doing that a lot now. People are joining by video call or even speaker phone. Many offices will have a speakerphone. You can ask to have somebody called on your behalf. Especially with COVID and the restricted visitation. Let’s get people on the phone. Somebody else to listen for you. For the patient, I mean, and to take notes. That really helps