Written By: Dr. Jacques Fontaine,
Last modified: September 10, 2021

Top Mesothelioma Doctors

Paul H. Sugarbaker
Surgical Oncologist

Dr. Paul Sugarbaker is the country’s leading expert on peritoneal mesothelioma. He developed the widely renowned cytoreductive surgery and heated chemotherapy technique that changed the landscape of peritoneal cancer treatment. Many people with peritoneal mesothelioma are alive today because of Sugarbaker’s innovations.

Abraham Lebenthal
Thoracic Surgeon

Dr. Abraham Lebenthal is a respected thoracic surgeon who treats pleural mesothelioma patients at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston VA Hospital. Lebenthal worked alongside Dr. David Sugarbaker at Brigham and teaches at Harvard Medical School.

Sophie Dessureault
Surgical Oncologist
Dr. Sophie Dessureault is an award-winning surgical oncologist who specializes in peritoneal mesothelioma. She was a lead surgeon for a clinical trial that reported on the benefits of cytoreductive surgery and heated chemotherapy in peritoneal mesothelioma patients.
Robert B. Cameron
Thoracic Surgeon

Dr. Robert B. Cameron developed a lung-sparing surgery for pleural mesothelioma that not only extends survival but offers greater quality of life by preserving the lung. Cameron’s surgery has a lower risk of complications and studies report longer survival times.

Marcelo DaSilva
Thoracic Surgeon
Dr. Marcelo DaSilva is medical director of thoracic surgery at the AdventHealth Cancer Institute in Orlando, where he has built the Mesothelioma International Treatment Program.
Anne Tsao
Medical Oncologist

Dr. Anne Tsao is the director of the Mesothelioma Program at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. She specializes in medical oncology for mesothelioma and serves as a team leader for a multidisciplinary team of mesothelioma experts.

Raja Michael Flores
Thoracic Surgeon

Dr. Raja Michael Flores is a professor and chairman of the Department of Thoracic Surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. Flores is a widely respected expert in pleural mesothelioma and is a recognized leader in the field of thoracic surgery for pioneering video-assisted surgical techniques for lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Raphael Bueno
Thoracic Surgeon

Dr. Raphael Bueno is the Division of Thoracic Surgery chief at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and director of the renowned International Mesothelioma Program.

Hedy Lee Kindler
Oncologist

Dr. Hedy Lee Kindler is the director of the Mesothelioma Program at the University of Chicago Medical Center. She became a leading mesothelioma researcher and oncologist after losing her father to mesothelioma. Kindler is board certified in medical oncology and internal medicine, and she specializes in gastrointestinal oncology.

Jacques Fontaine
Thoracic Surgeon

Dr. Jacques Fontaine is the Director of the Mesothelioma Research and Treatment Center at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. He specializes in minimally invasive thoracic surgery including robotic surgery. Fontaine became a pleural mesothelioma specialist while studying under Dr. Sugarbaker at the International Mesothelioma Program at Brigham & Women’s Hospital.

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Snehal Smart, M.D., patient advocate for The Mesothelioma Center
For more than 15 years we’ve been building relationships across the U.S., connecting patients with top specialists. But every patient is an individual. It’s always rewarding when we help someone find the right doctor for their unique case.
Dr. Snehal Smart
Patient Advocate at The Mesothelioma Center

What Is a Mesothelioma Doctor?

A mesothelioma doctor is a physician with the knowledge and experience required to diagnose and treat this rare disease. Compared to general oncologists, mesothelioma doctors stay current with the latest research and know the best treatments for asbestos-related illnesses.

Mesothelioma specialists include experts across many disciplines, such as surgery and radiation oncology, who specifically focus on treating asbestos-related cancer. In addition, doctors who specialize in mesothelioma cancer have experience with the various subtypes of the disease such as the pleural and peritoneal variants. 

Each variant requires different treatment methods, which general physicians and cancer centers may not provide. For example, pleural surgeons specialize in thoracic surgery, while peritoneal surgeons are experts in abdominal surgery. Therefore, finding the correct mesothelioma doctor for your unique diagnosis can improve prognosis and extend survival.

Pleural Mesothelioma Doctors

A pleural mesothelioma doctor specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of the type of mesothelioma that develops in the lining of the lungs, known as the pleura.

  • Pleural mesothelioma oncologists specialize in diagnosing the disease and treating it with chemotherapy, immunotherapy, experimental drugs and Tumor Treating Fields therapy. They work with surgeons to administer heated intrapleural chemotherapy following surgery in certain patients.
  • These pleural mesothelioma surgeons specialize in thoracic surgeries that remove pleural tumors, including pleurectomy and decortication and extrapleural pneumonectomy. Some may also perform symptom-relieving surgeries such as pleurocentesis or talc pleurodesis.
  • Pleural mesothelioma radiologists specialize in delivering radiation therapy to the chest, specifically the narrow region where pleural tumors develop, to avoid damaging the heart and lungs.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Doctors

A peritoneal mesothelioma doctor specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of the form of mesothelioma that develops in the abdominal lining, which is known as the peritoneum.

  • Peritoneal mesothelioma oncologists specialize in treating the disease with chemotherapy, immunotherapy and experimental drugs. They work with surgeons to administer heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy immediately following surgery in patients who qualify for the combined treatment.
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma surgeons specialize in abdominal surgeries that removal peritoneal tumors, including peritonectomies and cytoreductive surgery. Some also perform symptom-controlling surgeries such as paracentesis.
  • It is rare for radiologists to specialize in peritoneal mesothelioma. Delivering radiation therapy to peritoneal tumors is dangerous because of the risk of harming nearby vital organs. The risk is high due to the way these tumors grow throughout the abdomen.

Why It’s Important to Speak to a Mesothelioma Doctor

Treating mesothelioma is a delicate and time-sensitive process. This cancer is rare and tends to spread quickly.

General oncologists often misdiagnose this disease as other, more common cancers or less severe conditions. Therefore, an early mesothelioma diagnosis and rapid treatment can significantly affect a patient’s prognosis and life expectancy.

Benefits of Seeing a Mesothelioma Doctor:
  • Doctors who treat mesothelioma are often part of a multidisciplinary team that includes a surgeon, medical oncologist and radiation oncologist.
  • Mesothelioma is a complex type of cancer, and these doctors often work at treatment centers that utilize the latest and best therapy options, including clinical trials.
  • Mesothelioma doctors know the signs of asbestos-related cancer, which often mimic many other cancers and illnesses.
  • They can diagnose the disease in its early stages and start the appropriate treatment promptly, which can improve mesothelioma life expectancy and prognosis.

Familiarity with this rare disease helps doctors create the best mesothelioma treatment plan possible for each patient.

It is also essential to choose a doctor who specializes in your specific mesothelioma diagnosis. For example, a surgeon specializing in pleural mesothelioma cancer isn’t helpful for patients with the peritoneal variant.

Watch: Tamron Little, a 14-year peritoneal mesothelioma survivor, shares her personal experience with a mesothelioma specialist vs. a general oncologist.

Many mesothelioma survivors credit their specialists for their extended life expectancy. In addition, you may have access to top mesothelioma treatments in your state. However, some patients might have to travel long distances to continue treatments and checkups with their doctor.

How to Choose the Best Mesothelioma Doctor For You

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 decide if you trust their approach.

  • Level of Experience: Find a doctor you can trust and communicate with clearly. Consider their experience with mesothelioma and credentials. It’s OK to ask how many mesothelioma cases they have seen and how many years they’ve been in practice. They should also be able to tell you what types of new treatment options are available.
  • Physician Specialty: Make sure the doctor works in a multidisciplinary fashion, meaning the mesothelioma surgeon and mesothelioma medical oncologist work together as a team in the same hospital. The best mesothelioma doctor is one who has several years of experience with your type of mesothelioma, whether it’s pleural, peritoneal or otherwise.
  • Physician Availability: Check with the physician’s office if they are accepting new patients and when you can schedule an appointment. Many doctors with limited office hours or long wait lists do not have the accessibility you may want in a new physician. Consider mapping the distance to the office ahead of time to estimate travel time.
  • Clinical Research Trials: Evaluate the cancer center and the treatment options they offer. Ask if they offer mesothelioma clinical trials and what the enrollment process is like. You may want to compare available trials with other treatment centers.
  • Cost of Services: Learn which mesothelioma doctors are covered by your insurance plan. Verify with the office that the doctor you will be seeing is accepting your specific insurance plan. You can also ask for documentation of the costs for services you will likely receive.
  • Location: The mesothelioma doctor you choose should be at a cancer center you can reliably visit. The mesothelioma cancer center shouldn’t be too far away that it creates a financial, physical or emotional burden on you or your family when you need to travel for treatment.

Specialists should also encourage patients to seek second opinions from other mesothelioma doctors. A mesothelioma second opinion allows patients to consider other treatment options and access different clinical trials that may not be available at their first choice.

Mesothelioma specialist speaking with a patient and his wife
Find a Mesothelioma Cancer Center
Top mesothelioma cancer centers have cutting-edge technology and multidisciplinary teams with experience treating this rare disease.

What to Expect During the Initial Appointment

Coming prepared to your first appointment will help you make the most of the time you have with your doctor. You don’t have to decide on anything that day, but you do want to begin treatment as soon as possible.

What to Bring for the Appointment:
  1. Detailed summary of your medical and work history, including any possible exposure to asbestos in the workplace.
  2. Hard copy of your medical records and a CD of your recent scans.
  3. Timeline describing your symptoms and when they developed.
  4. List of medications you take, including prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines.
  5. Questions you have about your diagnosis, treatment, clinical trials and recovery.

At the initial appointment, you can expect the doctor or team of doctors to discuss the details of your diagnosis, medical and work history and treatment options.

The mesothelioma doctor may go over test results with you, such as imaging scans that show tumor location and pathology reports that detail tumor cell types.

Video on what mesothelioma patients should expect for their first doctor visit.

Watch: Mesothelioma specialist Dr. Marcelo DaSilva shares what mesothelioma patients can expect during their first doctor visit.

You can expect a detailed discussion of your treatment options, including the benefits, risks and side effects of different therapies. In addition, there will be time for you to ask questions and decide upon a treatment plan with your doctor.

Common Questions to Ask Your Doctor

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

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

Thank you, Missy and The Mesothelioma Center. 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

One of the most common questions asked: Chance of survival. After a specialist knows the stage and type of mesothelioma you have, they will be able to provide your estimated mesothelioma prognosis and life expectancy. However, even a top mesothelioma doctor cannot predict your particular life expectancy. They can only estimate averages. Some patients beat the statistics and live longer than the average, while some may live less than the average.

This 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. It’s OK to decide to not ask about survival rates or your personal prognosis.

Questions to Ask at Your Doctor Appointment

  • 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?
  • Should I complement my therapy with exercise or a mesothelioma diet?

The Legacy of Dr. David Sugarbaker

Dr. David Sugarbaker, mesothelioma expert
Dr. David Sugarbaker

The pleural mesothelioma doctors who now lead the most advanced treatments in centers across the U.S. owe much of their success to Dr. David Sugarbaker, a pioneer of modern techniques used to treat this rare cancer.

Known as “Mr. Mesothelioma,” Sugarbaker trained and worked with numerous doctors who continue to research and develop new therapies in the hope of a cure. Connecting with these top doctors offers patients access to unique experiences and specialized education passed down from a legend in the world of mesothelioma treatment.

The Sugarbaker family has more than one mesothelioma specialist. Sugarbaker’s brother, Dr. Paul Sugarbaker, chose to specialize in peritoneal mesothelioma. He pioneered what became the most effective treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma: Cytoreductive surgery with heated chemotherapy. Before he developed the multimodal therapy, survival for the cancer was between six months and one year. Today, half of the patients who undergo surgery with heated chemotherapy live longer than five years.

Frequently Asked Questions About Mesothelioma Doctors

Who are the top mesothelioma doctors?

Some of the top mesothelioma doctors in the U.S. include Dr. Robert B. Cameron, Dr. Abraham Lebenthal, Dr. W. Charles Conway and Dr. Paul H. Sugarbaker.

Is it important to see a mesothelioma doctor over a regular oncologist?

Yes, it is important to work with a specialized mesothelioma doctor rather than a general oncologist. Mesothelioma doctors have spent years specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of this rare cancer. They understand the intricacies of mesothelioma treatment and help patients live longer by using the right therapies at the right time.

How can a mesothelioma doctor help me?

A mesothelioma doctor can help you understand your diagnosis and guide you through the treatment process. Mesothelioma doctors spend years specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of this rare cancer, and they are considered the best resource to help you live longer with mesothelioma.

What is the importance of a second opinion from a mesothelioma doctor?

Seeking a second opinion from a mesothelioma doctor is important to understanding all of your options for treatment that could extend survival. Second opinions often lead to better treatment options or a chance at joining a clinical trial that’s testing an innovative new treatment.


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