Dr. Estelamari Rodriguez, a lung cancer specialist, discusses the importance of patient advocacy in lung cancer care. Dr. Rodriguez shares how self-advocacy can impact cancer care and how being vocal as a patient advocate can help others in the lung cancer community.
Dr. Estelamari Rodriguez is Associate Director of Community Outreach – Thoracic Oncology at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Miami Health System. Learn more about Dr. Rodriguez, here.
Why is it so important for patients to share their symptoms and side effects that they’re having with their healthcare team?
Dr. Estelamari Rodriguez:
So, there are two types of advocacy. There’s the advocacy that you do at your personal level, so if the patient is not telling us that they’re having side effects, weeks can go by and these things don’t get addressed. So, you have to be your own advocate, your family can be a great advocate. It doesn’t matter who you are, if we don’t know your side effects, and you’re not communicating that, we’re not able to impact, and intervene early. But there’s a bigger message of advocacy that is extremely important, specifically in lung cancer for decades.
I mean, I think for a long time we didn’t have a lot of lung cancer advocates because people were not surviving lung cancer. And now, that we have people live years with lung cancer, metastatic cancer, and really are coming off treatment, now we have patients that can be the guiding light.
They can tell other patients about how they did, their side effects, can tell their story about how targeted treatment impacted their prognosis. So, advocacy is critical, we don’t have a lot of advocacy in lung cancer. We need advocates in every community, rural communities, urban communities, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans. In every community there is someone who’s impacted by lung cancer.
I think that you get something out of it, you feel like you’re helping other people, you’re definitely making people aware. And hopefully, if a legislator hears your story, because last night I was at an advocacy summit, and we had a legislator, and we were asking what really moves legislators to invest in research. And he’s like, “It’s not letter, it’s not emails, it’s these personal stories from patients, and patient advocates.” And we don’t have those stories unless people come out and say and tell them. But they really make people invest, and they really prioritize the importance of research. And that would help you also because if there’s more research, then your next treatment will be funded faster.