Episode 27: This radiation oncologist took her patient-centric focus to the next level by creating products to improve quality of life, with Dr. Madhu Shetti

Radiation oncologist and entrepreneur, Dr. Madhu Shetti, gives a “radiation treatment 101” overview to understand more about the art and science of this treatment. She delves into the importance of treating a patient holistically, understanding how cancer treatment fits into the logistics of daily life, and creating a treatment plan to honor this full view of each person. Creating a safe, non-judgemental space for diverse patients is central to her practice of medicine. Dr. Shetti discusses her hope that supportive care will continue to improve over time to give patients a high quality of life after treatments end, and has created skin care products to address some of the longer-term issues faced by patients.

About our guest

Dr. Madhu Shetti is a board certified, practicing Radiation Oncologist and a Stanford Graduate School of Business alum. She primarily treats black and brown women. During cancer treatments, patients can experience painful blistering skin reactions similar to shingles + long term skin sensitivity. Unsatisfied with currently available options especially for black and brown skin tones, Dr. Shetti developed skin care products to protect and soothe the skin during treatment and prevent secondary cancers for years afterwards. In 2022, Balmere received the Stanford Impact Founder prize (funded by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak & his wife Akshata Murthy) to improve health outcomes in communities of color.

Watch the video of our episode on YouTube

  • 3 minutes:

    On how to balance cancer treatment with quality of life.

    As I was doing this [volunteer] work, I visited several of the cancer hospitals in India and saw many young adults with disfiguring surgeries. So they could undergo cancer surgery, but once they got back to their villages and their homes, they were often not included because they could not eat comfortably in public or they couldn’t hold down jobs because they couldn’t maintain their nutritional status. And that really made me think about what is the point of curing someone of cancer if they have no quality of life afterward? What are some options that we could do to give individuals the choice of undergoing cancer treatments so that they still have incredible quality of life afterwards? How do we preserve as much of the body as possible, both physically and functionally?

  • 15 minutes:

    Important considerations when thinking about radiation treatment.

    The number one thing I think about is the logistics for treatment. Because we can create the most beautiful, ideal treatment, but if a patient cannot complete it for any reason, then we’ve actually done a disservice to the patient. So I think about: how do I make this manageable for my patients?

  • 29 minutes:

    On building trust with patients.

    My number one goal is to build trust. Because if you don’t have trust, it’s an uphill journey….I think it’s very important to really listen to your patients to understand their concerns, and not make them feel embarrassed or judged. Because to some extent, we’re only here with you in person for a certain number of days, but outside of that, you are going to go home and live your life. And an average survivor is going to live for 14 years after diagnosis, so we need to make sure we set you up for success in those years to come.

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