The VA West Los Angeles Medical Center is one of the hospitals under the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. It provides some of the finest care in the world to military veterans diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma.
Using a close relationship with the nearby Pacific Mesothelioma Center and the UCLA Comprehensive Cancer Center, this VA hospital can offer multidisciplinary care for a rare cancer that only a specialty center can provide for patients.
“The care we offer can make a big difference for a patient with mesothelioma,” said Graciela Hoal, RN, NP, who works closely with the patients and doctors at the VA medical center. “A great specialist can make a real difference.”
Dr. Robert Cameron is chief of thoracic surgery at the VA and director of the UCLA Mesothelioma Comprehensive Research Program. He was instrumental in developing the VA’s Admiral Zumwalt Mesothelioma Specialty Program.
He has been a pioneer and an innovator in mesothelioma treatment, developing the lung-sparing pleurectomy/decortication surgery that has become so important to extending survival for patients.
“Veterans are very lucky to have Dr. Cameron in the system,” Hoal said. “A lot of doctors, surgeons, have little or no experience with mesothelioma. The life expectancy, where there is not a specialist, can be six to nine months. But we have patients we first saw in 2008, who are living fairly healthy lives today.”
Cameron, who oversees the care of the veterans with mesothelioma, works closely with the pathologists, oncologists and radiologists who are familiar with the intricacies of this rare and aggressive cancer.
Military veterans account for an estimated 30 percent of mesothelioma legal cases in the U.S. The high percentage is a result of the military’s former overreliance on asbestos products.
There are more than 1,700 medical facilities nationally in the VA system, but only a handful that have the knowledge and resources to expertly handle a case of pleural mesothelioma.
The other VA centers include the West Roxbury division at the VA Boston Healthcare System, the Miami VA Healthcare System, the DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston and Atlanta VA Healthcare System.
Once in the VA health care system, a veteran with mesothelioma anywhere in the country can travel and receive care at one of these specialty centers. However, veterans will need referrals from their local VA office to make the move.
Cameron has seen patients from California, Oklahoma, Arizona, Nevada and Iowa among other states during his more than two decades with the VA. He has performed more than 300 P/D surgeries.
He serves as the host for the annual International Symposium on Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma, attracting medical professionals from around the world.
Beyond surgery, Cameron and his team have had notable success with novel interventions such as immunotherapy, cryoblation and betadine lavage therapy.
The West Los Angeles medical center, where the surgery is performed, is the flagship of the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, one of the largest health care systems in the country.
It is a major training site for medical residencies from the schools of medicine at UCLA and University of Southern California.
Disclaimer: VA West Los Angeles Medical Center has no professional affiliation with Asbestos.com.
Former U.S. Army Capt. Aaron Munz is the director of the Veterans Department at The Mesothelioma Center, and he is a VA-accredited Claims Agent. He received the Bronze Star in 2004 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Munz has intimate knowledge of how veterans were exposed to asbestos because he served under similar conditions. Read More