Top Mesothelioma Specialists
What Is a Mesothelioma Specialist?
A mesothelioma specialist is a doctor with advanced medical education and extensive experience specifically treating patients with pleural, peritoneal, pericardial or testicular mesothelioma.
Because mesothelioma is a rare and complex form of malignant cancer, it can be challenging to diagnose and treat, even for general cancer specialists. Mesothelioma doctors and other medical professionals who work extensively with mesothelioma patients can offer the most advanced therapies.
Surgical oncologists, thoracic surgeons and mesothelioma-focused medical oncologists also often work in teams with experts in other modes of mesothelioma care.
Find a Specialist Near You
Mesothelioma Specialists vs. General Oncologists
Although a general oncologist has experience with all kinds of cancer, a mesothelioma specialist provides more accurate diagnostic techniques and a more comprehensive range of treatment options for this rare cancer.
- Expertise: Mesothelioma specialists have a long history of diagnosing and treating mesothelioma patients. Their experience with this rare disease is unmatched, which helps them avoid a misdiagnosis and build the best possible treatment plan.
- Specialized Training: Experts in mesothelioma have years of education and hundreds of hours of practicing oncology, surgery, radiation and other disciplines. Most importantly, they trained under another mesothelioma specialist to develop their expertise.
- Continuing Education: These mesothelioma experts follow the latest research in treatment innovations and clinical trials. Cancer centers often advertise research trials, and eligible patients have a chance to receive experimental new therapies.
- Top Mesothelioma Centers: Mesothelioma specialists work at the nation’s top-rated mesothelioma specialty centers with the best resources available. Leading cancer centers also utilize multidisciplinary teams that work with every patient.
Patients who receive treatment from a mesothelioma specialist have more treatment options and access to expert teams with advanced resources. Mesothelioma specialists on a multidisciplinary treatment team offer significantly more expertise than a general oncologist.
Why Should You Choose a Mesothelioma Specialist?
Finding a mesothelioma specialist in your area can be challenging, but a specialist offers the best chance to improve your prognosis and extend your time with your loved ones.
Patients who receive an early and accurate mesothelioma diagnosis from a specialist are more likely to be eligible for surgery and treatment that improves life expectancy.
Many of the top mesothelioma doctors in the U.S. trained under Dr. David Sugarbaker, a pioneer in mesothelioma treatment. These physicians have established new teams at dedicated centers with highly specialized techniques and procedures. Dr. Paul H. Sugarbaker, for example, is the country’s leading expert on peritoneal mesothelioma, guiding research as president of the The Foundation for Applied Research in Gastrointestinal Oncology (FARGO).
How to Choose a Mesothelioma Specialist
The first step in choosing a mesothelioma specialist should be putting together a list of doctors and treatment centers in your area that offer services appropriate to your diagnosis.
If unsure where to start, you can ask your family doctor for a referral or speak to one of The Mesothelioma Center’s patient advocates for information on insurance, scheduling and more.
- Verify Affiliations: Ensure a specialist you’re considering works with a team of experts at an affiliated top-rated mesothelioma treatment center.
- Confirm Specialization: Select a medical professional with specialized expertise in the type of mesothelioma you’ve been diagnosed with or one who can diagnose you.
- Determine Accessibility: Discuss cost, location and if they’re taking new patients. Ask how soon you can make an appointment and what you need on your first visit.
You may find it helpful to browse doctor reviews as you look for a specialist, and don’t be afraid to ask for multiple referrals from your doctor. Talking to other mesothelioma survivors is another way to learn which specialists may be right for you.
Types of Mesothelioma Specialists
Types of mesothelioma specialists include medical oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, pulmonologists and pathologists. Each type of mesothelioma specialist is an expert in their field but collaborates with others to develop the best treatment plans for each patient.
Thoracic and General Surgeons
A thoracic surgeon operates on the lungs, heart, esophagus and diaphragm. Mesothelioma patients are not candidates for major surgery if they have late-stage cancer. A skilled surgeon may help a mesothelioma patient extend their life for several years if the cancer has not yet spread.
Patients with peritoneal mesothelioma may have a general surgeon on their treatment team since few experts specialize in peritoneal surgery. These surgeons may specialize in oncology and have extensive training in treating cancer with surgical removal. Mesothelioma cancer is rare, so it is essential to ask about a surgeon’s experience with it.
A medical oncologist is a medical specialist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer with conventional therapies such as chemotherapy. Mesothelioma oncologists are limited in number but work in research centers throughout the country. These doctors meet regularly with other experts in mesothelioma cancer to discuss and coordinate your care.
As part of the diagnosis process, you may see a medical oncologist, especially if you seek a second opinion. With information on your type and stage of cancer, the medical oncologist will tailor a treatment plan to fit your individual needs. They may prescribe chemotherapy and monitor your response.
Radiation Oncologists and Radiologists
A radiation oncologist will contribute to developing a radiation therapy plan for cancer patients. The goal is to shrink the tumors without harming the surrounding healthy cells. These specialists, and dosimetrists, will determine the necessary radiation delivery method and dosage levels.
Radiologists perform or oversee diagnostic imaging scans, such as X-rays, CT scans, MRIs or PET scans. These images can reveal the presence and location of solid tumors within the body. Imaging tests monitor tumors during treatment to see if they get smaller or larger.
A pulmonologist is an expert in lung disease and will be part of the diagnostic and treatment process for pleural mesothelioma patients. Part of their job is identifying abnormalities in the lungs. A pulmonologist can perform procedures with a type of camera called a bronchoscope to help clear the lung or locate suspicious lesions.
Another role of a pulmonologist is working with patients to improve their quality of life, strengthen their lungs and compensate for lost lung function. This specialist also focuses on slowing the decline of lung function and improving oxygenation throughout the body.
Pathologists are the specialists who study biopsied tissue under a microscope to diagnose mesothelioma. However, they are not the ones who obtain the biopsy sample. A general surgeon or specialized pulmonologist usually performs the biopsy procedure.
Pathologists ultimately determine whether a patient has mesothelioma or another cancer. They also evaluate the cancer stage and type of cells in a patient’s tumor, influencing treatment type and mesothelioma prognosis.
Palliative Care Specialist
Palliative care specialists help control symptoms in cancer patients and improve their quality of life. These experts understand how to manage cancer-related pain and the side effects of treatment. Sometimes, patients begin palliative treatment alongside initial cancer care to help reduce the potential for treatment-related side effects.
Working with a palliative care specialist helps mesothelioma patients heal from cancer-related injuries and unexpected health events. Lessening the burden of cancer and its treatment on the body helps people live longer, better lives.
Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
Osteopathic doctors undergo the same training, licensing and board certification as medical doctors. However, they also perform additional training in osteopathic manipulative medicine, which focuses on the health of the musculoskeletal system. They take a more holistic approach to health care and promote preventative medicine.
Doctors of osteopathic medicine with expertise in mesothelioma are rare. But patients have worked with them successfully in specialty areas such as pulmonology, surgery and oncology. These specialists may also offer more options for palliative care that can reduce cancer-related pain in bones and muscles.
A dietitian specializes in nutrition requirements and dietary challenges for cancer patients. Mesothelioma patients may encounter many difficulties with their diet during treatment, such as mouth sores from chemotherapy or lack of appetite because of nausea.
Mesothelioma dietitians undergo advanced education and internships to become qualified beyond the level of a nutritionist. A registered dietitian works with a multidisciplinary health team to develop unique diet plans for mesothelioma patients and ensure proper nutrition.
How a Multidisciplinary Team of Mesothelioma Experts Treats Patients
A multidisciplinary team is a group of physicians from different medical backgrounds, for example, surgery, oncology and radiology. These teams come together and use their unique perspectives to discuss diagnosis and treatment options for each patient. An oncologist may not know if surgery is an option until speaking with a mesothelioma surgeon.
The nation’s best mesothelioma cancer centers have created multidisciplinary teams to treat this cancer with a multimodal approach.
Multimodal therapy for mesothelioma combines two or more treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy to treat cancer in multiple ways. Using various methods to manage mesothelioma means fewer ways for cancer to evade medication or return after treatment is complete.
Who Leads the Team?
Depending on the first course of treatment, the patient’s medical oncologist or surgeon may be the team leader to coordinate care. Who takes the lead in each patient’s case depends on the primary treatment method. The lead specialist will oversee your treatment plan to ensure you receive the best treatment possible.
The team leader will likely be a medical oncologist if the primary treatment modality is chemotherapy or immunotherapy. However, the team leader may be a surgeon if a patient is eligible for a significant surgical procedure. The team lead may also depend on which doctor has the most history with the patient or has seen them most recently.
Questions to Ask Each Specialist
If you’re on a multimodal treatment plan, you may have specific questions about each kind of treatment you receive.
In most cases, your oncologist will serve as the primary point of contact on the multidisciplinary team and can answer most of your questions.
However, it is generally best for each specialist to answer questions regarding the treatment they deliver. Consider the following questions to ask of each specialist.
Questions for an Oncologist
- What are the best chemotherapy drugs for mesothelioma?
- What side effects might I experience on the chemotherapy drugs I’ve been prescribed?
- What happens if cancer comes back? What are my options, then?
- What happens if it works? How often do I need to return for monitoring?
Questions for a Surgeon
- What should I do to prepare before surgery?
- How long will my surgery last?
- What are the risks and side effects of surgery?
- How long will it take for me to recover from surgery?
Questions for a Radiation Oncologist
- How does radiation therapy work?
- How often will I receive treatment?
- What are the side effects of radiation therapy?
- How can I care for my skin after treatment?
Questions for a Palliative Care Specialist
- What else can you help me with aside from pain control?
- What symptoms can you help me keep in control?
- Would you recommend any complementary therapy such as physical therapy?
- What can I do at home to control my pain and symptoms?
Asking the right questions can help mesothelioma patients and families find a health care team to communicate all aspects of treatment. However, patients shouldn’t worry about fitting all their inquiries into the first visit. Physicians, nurses and other staff members can often provide information between visits.
Mesothelioma specialists and their team members are the best sources for details on clinical trials, financial coverage and treatment visits. With the right team beside them, patients should never feel like the information they need is out of reach.
Common Questions About Finding a Mesothelioma Specialist
- How do I find a mesothelioma specialist near me?
The patient advocates at The Mesothelioma Center or your oncologist can connect you with mesothelioma specialists in your area. The best choice of mesothelioma specialist will be one that you can reasonably travel to for treatment.
Examples of specialists across the U.S. include Dr. R. Taylor Ripley at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and Dr. Raja Michael Flores at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.
- Are there cancer centers that specialize in mesothelioma?
Several of the nation’s top cancer centers specialize in rare cancers such as mesothelioma. Specialists at these treatment centers have doctors with extensive experience treating mesothelioma with various options.
These cancer centers also have multidisciplinary teams of experts that develop unique multimodal treatment plans for each mesothelioma patient.
- How do I see a specialist during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Mesothelioma doctors continue to see patients during the COVID-19 pandemic using extensive precautions to keep their patients and staff safe. The Mesothelioma Center’s patient advocates can help you develop a plan to stay protected during a visit with your doctor.