Mesothelioma Doctors

Everyone diagnosed with mesothelioma is strongly encouraged to find a specialist who understands the intricacies of this rare cancer. Because the disease represents only 0.3 percent of all diagnosed cancers, only a select number of doctors have experience treating mesothelioma. Working with a mesothelioma-focused specialist could make all the difference.

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Top Pleural Mesothelioma Doctors

Pleural mesothelioma is the most common type of the cancer, representing more than 75 percent of all cases. Still, given the rarity of the disease, thoracic (chest) doctors who specialize in pleural mesothelioma are few and far between.

Several surgeons across the country have emerged as leaders in the field of mesothelioma cancer, utilizing the most advanced treatment methods to give patients a longer life expectancy. These doctors often work at prestigious hospitals equipped with the latest technology and multidisciplinary teams. Many are involved with ongoing clinical trials.

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Dr. Vadim Gushchin, Surgical Oncologist

Vadim Gushchin, M.D.

Peritoneal Surface Malignancies

Mercy Medical Center
Dr. Kiran Turaga, Surgical Oncologist

Kiran Turaga, M.D.

Surgical Treatment of Abdominal and Peritoneal Diseases

University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center
Dr. Aaron Mansfield - Medical Oncologist

Aaron S. Mansfield, M.D.

Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma Immunotherapy

Mayo Clinic Minnesota
Dr. Robert Ramirez, Medical Oncologist

Robert Ramirez, M.D.

Lung Cancer, Pleural Mesothelioma, Research

Ochsner Medical Center
Dr. Jack A. Elias, Chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine at Yale University

Jack A. Elias, M.D.

Internal Medicine: Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine

Yale New Haven Health Smilow Cancer Hospital
Dr. W. Charles Conway, Director of Surgical Oncology & Expert Contributor for

W. Charles Conway, M.D.

Peritoneal surface malignancies, complex oncologic surgeries

Ridley-Tree Cancer Center
Dr. Brian Pettiford, Cardiothoracic Surgeon & Expert Contributor for

Brian Pettiford, M.D.

Pleural Mesothelioma, Lung Cancer

Ochsner Medical Center
Dr. Miguel Alvelo-Rivera, Thoracic Surgical Oncologist

Miguel Alvelo-Rivera, M.D.

Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery

Henry Ford Hospital
Dr. Betty Tong, Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Betty Tong, M.D.

Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery

Duke Cancer Center
Dr. Nathan Pennell, Medical Oncologist

Nathan Pennell, M.D.

Mesothelioma, Lung Cancer, Clinical Trials

Cleveland Clinic Cancer Institute
Dr. Neil Christie, Assistant Professor of Surgery

Neil Christie, M.D.

Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

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Medical Outreach Director Missy Miller explains how we connect people with top mesothelioma doctors.

“Thank you, Missy. Thank you for helping us find such a thorough doctor who double-checked pathology and determined what we are dealing with. We appreciate you and your help more than you know. I want you to know the significant impact you have made on our lives, and I am certain numerous others’. We have many blessings to be thankful for, and you are one of them.”

– Christi, Keith and family.

Some of the nation’s top pleural mesothelioma doctors include:

David Sugarbaker

Lung Institute at Baylor College of Medicine
  • Patients and peers refer to him as “Mr. Mesothelioma.”
  • America’s foremost authority on mesothelioma.
  • Chief thoracic surgeon at the Lung Institute.

Abraham Lebenthal

Brigham and Women's Hospital
  • Worked alongside Sugarbaker at Brigham & Women’s Hospital.
  • Director of minimally invasive thoracic surgery at VA Boston HealthCare System.
  • Instructor at Harvard Medical School.

Robert B. Cameron

UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Pioneer in developing lung-sparing pleurectomy/decortication (P/D).
  • Director of thoracic surgery at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
  • Serves as scientific advisor for the Pacific Mesothelioma Center.

Jacques Fontaine

H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center
  • Director of the Mesothelioma Research and Treatment Center at Moffitt.
  • Specializes in minimally invasive techniques, including robotic surgery.
  • Began his thoracic surgery practice at the University of Montreal.

Top Peritoneal Mesothelioma Doctors

Peritoneal mesothelioma, which develops on the protective lining surrounding the abdominal cavity, accounts for roughly 20 percent of malignant mesothelioma cases. A surgical oncologist with experience treating peritoneal mesothelioma and performing complex abdominal surgeries is a patient’s best option.

The number of peritoneal mesothelioma specialists remains small, but these doctors are involved with major breakthroughs for treating the rare cancer, including the promising heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) — a process that combines surgery and heated chemotherapy delivered directly to the abdomen.

Only a select few cancer centers across the country are equipped to perform HIPEC treatments.

Some top peritoneal mesothelioma doctors include:

W. Charles Conway

Ridley-Tree Cancer Center
  • One of nation’s leaders in peritoneal mesothelioma.
  • Leader in robotic surgery.
  • Performed first robotic pancreaticoduodenectomy.

Paul H. Sugarbaker

Washington (D.C.) Cancer Institute at Washington Hospital Center
  • Renowned for his work in peritoneal mesothelioma.
  • Chief of Peritoneal Surface Malignancy Program.
  • Director of the Center for Gastrointestinal Malignancies at the Washington (D.C.) Hospital Center.

J.F. Pingpank Jr.

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center
  • Advocate of heated chemotherapy.
  • Focuses on increasing progression-free survival.
  • Leader in peritoneal mesothelioma research.

Sophie Dessureault

H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center
  • Lead surgeon in Moffitt’s study of cytoreductive surgery and HIPEC.
  • Associate professor at the University of South Florida’s College of Medicine.
  • Winner of the American Society of Clinical Oncology Career Development Award.

Importance of a Mesothelioma Specialist

Treating mesothelioma is a delicate and time-sensitive process. The cancer is associated with a long latency period, but it typically spreads once it is diagnosed.

Because mesothelioma is rare, it may be misdiagnosed as other cancers or less serious conditions. Early diagnosis and treatment can have a significant effect on a patient’s prognosis and life expectancy.

Kasie Coleman

I can’t tell you the amount of people I’ve talked to who are no longer here because they got treated by an oncologist and not a mesothelioma specialist. It happens so often.”

– Kasie Coleman, peritoneal mesothelioma survivor diagnosed in 2010

Finding a mesothelioma specialist can ensure you get access to the latest treatments and care from an oncologist familiar with the rare cancer. A specialist knows the risks, potential side effects and other intricacies of mesothelioma treatments.

That familiarity helps the doctor connect with the patient and form the best treatment plan possible.

And although they share some similarities, it is important to choose a doctor who specializes in your particular type of mesothelioma. For example, an oncologist specializing in pleural mesothelioma cancer wouldn’t be the ideal choice for peritoneal patients or vice versa.

Many mesothelioma survivors credit their specialists for their extended life expectancy and travel long distances to continue treatments and checkups with their doctor.

How to Choose Your Mesothelioma Doctor

One of the most important concerns when choosing a doctor is finding one you can trust completely. You will want to evaluate the doctor’s expertise and get a sense of how comfortable you feel with the head of the team charged with trying to save your life.

In fact, building a good relationship with your health care team ensures everyone — you, your loved ones, your doctors and nurses — can efficiently communicate with each other.

Dr. Fontaine explains why choosing a mesothelioma specialist is so important.

Common Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Once you choose a mesothelioma specialist, you will likely still have plenty of questions that need answering. Every mesothelioma specialist is different, and each may have a unique way of relaying information or answering questions.

Kasie Coleman

You have to trust somebody who’s going to tell you that you have a 50 percent chance of not coming off the operating table. They have to sell themselves to you, too.”

– Raeleen Minchuk, peritoneal mesothelioma survivor diagnosed in 2014

Don’t shy away from tough questions, and consider taking a notepad or journal with you to help you remember and organize important dates, facts and other useful details.

One of the most common questions asked is about a patient’s chance of survival. After a specialist knows the stage of your cancer, they will be able to provide your estimated mesothelioma prognosis and life expectancy.

Knowing prognosis and life expectancy can lead to other important questions about your treatment options and the goal of treatment. However, not every patient feels this information will benefit them and they decide to not ask about survival rates or personal prognosis.

Some other questions to consider asking of your doctor:

  • How long have you been treating mesothelioma?
  • How many cases do you treat a year?
  • What’s the longest survival you’ve seen among your mesothelioma patients?
  • How do you prefer to be reached? By phone or email?
  • Do you recommend any complementary therapies such as exercise or nutritional changes?

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Karen Selby, RN and Patient Advocate at The Mesothelioma Center

Karen Selby joined in 2009. She is a registered nurse with a background in oncology and thoracic surgery and was the director of a tissue bank before becoming a Patient Advocate at The Mesothelioma Center. Karen has assisted surgeons with thoracic surgeries such as lung resections, lung transplants, pneumonectomies, pleurectomies and wedge resections. She is also a member of the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators. Read More

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Last Modified June 5, 2018
  1. Baylor College of Medicine. (n.d.). David J Sugarbaker, M.D. Retrieved from:
  2. Brigham and Women’s Hospital. (n.d.). Abraham Lebenthal, MD. Retrieved from:
  3. UCLA Health. (n.d.). Robert B. Cameron, MD. Retrieved from:
  4. Moffitt Cancer Center. (n.d.). Jacques-Pierre Fontaine, MD. Retrieved from:
  5. Ridley-Tree Cancer Center. (2017). W. Charles Conway, II, MD, FACS. Retrieved from:
  6. Sugarbaker Oncology Associates. (n.d.). Dr. Paul H. Sugarbaker, FACS, FRCS. Retrieved from:
  7. U.S. News & World Report. (n.d.). Dr. James Pingpank. Retrieved from:
  8. Moffitt Cancer Center. (n.d.). Sophie Dessureault, MD, PhD. Retrieved from:
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