Dr. Tracey Weigel knows that mesothelioma patients may feel overwhelmed as they come to the Maine Medical Center seeking treatment for their illness.
That’s why she suggests that patients arrange a pre-treatment meeting with their entire medical team so they fully understand the procedures that they are about to undergo.
“Mesothelioma truly represents a disease that needs to be addressed in a multidisciplinary fashion,” said Weigel, who moved her practice recently from the University of Wisconsin to the Maine Medical Center.
“Talk to all three oncologists, a medical, radiation and surgical oncologist, all at once to ensure that all options are clearly explained up front, prior to treatment,” she advises patients.
She says communicating well with a multi-disciplinary team can help patients feel more at ease about their upcoming treatment and during their stay at the hospital.
At the Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, where she spent the past decade, she typically was caring for 10-15 mesothelioma patients each year. She will be treating mesothelioma patients in Maine, also, and her beliefs haven’t changed.
All three physicians in the room with the patient answering his or her questions [ensures] that the patient hears and receives unified and consistent explanations and advice.
The University of Wisconsin’s hospitals provided patients with a specialized group of medical professionals that includes “dedicated thoracic (non-cardiac) surgeons, thoracic anesthesia staff and a thoracic nurse educator/specialist.” She expects the same dedicated staff in Maine.
This type of team approach to treatment can give patients a better chance at life, Weigel believes.
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Multidisciplinary treatment for mesothelioma is not uncommon. Treatment for the cancer can entail a number of procedures, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery.
Many patients receive two or more types of therapy, which can require additional planning but often extends a patient’s survival. When this is the case, Weigel recommends that “treatments should be integrated due to their interdependence.”
As a thoracic surgeon, Weigel knows firsthand that the complexity of treatment can be a challenge, but with more than 25 years of experience she has learned the intricacies of the typical operations for mesothelioma patients.
The surgeries are “long and tedious,” Weigel said, “and [they] require meticulous attention to detail to remove the entire pleural-based tumor.”
Safer surgery, however, is one of the major improvements she has seen in mesothelioma treatment over the last decade. For instance, most of her patients are given an extrapleural pneumonectomy or a pleurectomy and decortication. Occasionally, she will perform a VATS pleurodesis.
I have a special interest in an aggressive but safe surgical approach. . . . . for patients who are acceptable surgical candidates.
Weigel is currently looking forward to future involvement with mesothelioma clinical trials to explore additional progressive treatments for mesothelioma.
Tracey Weigel, M.D., joined the Maine Medical Center in October 2012, bringing more than a decade of experience from the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, where she helped advance modern therapies for mesothelioma.
Weigel joined the staff at Maine Medical Center in Portland as Division Director of Thoracic Surgery and Medical Director of the Comprehensive Thoracic Oncology Program within the Department of Surgery.
Fast Fact: In 2010, Dr. Weigel received a Geriatric Patient Care Award from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons in honor of her work with predicting the operations senior patients can safely withstand.
Although her caseload of patients with mesothelioma may be reduced initially in her new surroundings, her commitment to fighting the disease won’t be changing.
During her time at the Carbone Cancer Center, where she served as chief of thoracic surgery, she saw a significant change in the way mesothelioma was treated, including “better chemotherapy and safer surgery.”
Throughout her career, she has performed a wide range of surgeries, including pleurectomy, thoracoscopic talc pleurodesis, bronchoscopy and lung reductive therapy.
Weigel takes special interest in the surgical improvements that can minimize a procedure’s impact on a patient whose body is already weakened by cancer.
Certified through the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, Weigel also has experience with lung volume reduction surgery and esophagectomies.
In addition to studying advanced chemotherapy and radiology treatments, Weigel has worked on a number of studies about laparoscopic resections and CT-scans in potential lung cancer screening programs, funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Weigel graduated from the University of Rochester School of Medicine in 1986 and then completed a surgical residency at Brown University in 1993. She completed a fellowship in surgical oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute in New York.
At Brown, she also completed a Research Fellowship in Tumor Immunology /B Cell Biology.
She believes strongly in the multidisciplinary approach to the treatment of mesothelioma, bringing together the surgery, chemotherapy and radiation to form an effective strategy.
Featured in journals such as Annals of Thoracic Surgery and Clinical Nuclear Medicine, Weigel has authored 17 articles throughout her career, many of which explore issues of radiography techniques and minimally invasive surgical procedures.
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