Mesothelioma doctors include surgeons, oncologists and other cancer specialists who have dedicated part of their career to treating malignant mesothelioma. Few doctors specialize in mesothelioma because it is a rare cancer. Working with a doctor who specializes in mesothelioma could make all the difference.
Treating mesothelioma is a delicate and time-sensitive process. The cancer tends to spread quickly.
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.
A doctor who specializes in mesothelioma can ensure you get access to the latest treatments and care. A specialist knows the risks and potential side effects of mesothelioma treatments.
That familiarity helps the doctor connect with the patient and form the best treatment plan possible.
It is important to choose a doctor who specializes in your particular type of mesothelioma. An oncologist specializing in pleural mesothelioma cancer wouldn’t be the ideal choice for peritoneal patients.
Many mesothelioma survivors credit their specialists for their extended life expectancy. They travel long distances to continue treatments and checkups with their doctor.
Cardiothoracic surgeryHollings Cancer Center at the University of South Carolina
Peritoneal MesotheliomaNew York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center
General Surgery, Thoracic SurgerySidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins Bayview
Thoracic malignanciesHollings Cancer Center at the University of South Carolina
Lung, Head and Neck CancersFroedtert Hospital and Medical College of Wisconsin
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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. They use the most advanced treatment methods to give patients a longer life expectancy. These doctors work at prestigious hospitals with the latest technology and multidisciplinary teams. Many are involved with ongoing clinical trials.
“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.
Dr. David Sugarbaker was regarded as the country’s foremost authority on pleural mesothelioma. He pioneered a surgery that significantly improved survival rates and revolutionized how the cancer is treated. He served as the director of several mesothelioma programs including the International Mesothelioma Program. He died Aug. 29, 2018.
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.
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 mesothelioma specialist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital’s International Mesothelioma Program.
Peritoneal mesothelioma develops on the protective lining surrounding the abdominal cavity. It accounts for roughly 20 percent of malignant mesothelioma cases. A surgeon or an oncologist with experience treating peritoneal mesothelioma is a patient’s best option.
The number of doctors able to treat peritoneal mesothelioma remains small. These doctors are involved with major breakthroughs for treating the rare cancer including the promising heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). The procedure 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.
Dr. W. Charles Conway is an expert in peritoneal mesothelioma and the Director of Surgical Oncology at Ridley-Tree Cancer Center in Santa Barbara, California. He specializes in minimally invasive robotic surgery and heated chemotherapy for peritoneal mesothelioma.
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.
Dr. J.F. Pingpank Jr. is a peritoneal mesothelioma expert who advocates for regional therapy. The approach applies treatment locally around the cancer to limit damage to the rest of the body. Pingpank specializes in cytoreductive surgery and heated chemotherapy.
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.
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.
Building a good relationship with your health care team ensures everyone can efficiently communicate with each other.
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.
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. Take 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.
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.
Karen Selby joined Asbestos.com 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