Last modified: June 30, 2021
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.
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 SmartPatient Advocate at The Mesothelioma Center
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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.
- 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.
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.
The 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 the modern techniques for treating this rare cancer.
Known as “Mr. Mesothelioma,” Dr. Sugarbaker trained and worked with numerous doctors who have continued innovating therapies at cancer centers across the country in the hope of a cure. Connecting with these top doctors offers patients access to the unique experiences and specialized education passed down from a legend in the world of mesothelioma treatment.
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.
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.
- Detailed summary of your medical and work history, including any possible exposure to asbestos in the workplace.
- Hard copy of your medical records and a CD of your recent scans.
- Timeline describing your symptoms and when they developed.
- List of medications you take, including prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines.
- 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.
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?
Frequently Asked Questions About Mesothelioma Doctors
- Who are the top mesothelioma doctors?
- 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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