Written By: Karen Selby, RN,
Last modified: March 18, 2021

Types of Mesothelioma Oncologists

Oncologists who specialize in mesothelioma give patients with this rare cancer the best chance at longer survival. If surgery is an option, they will be able to refer patients to a surgical oncologist with expertise in the complex tumor-removing procedures for mesothelioma.

Specialized oncologists are also familiar with ongoing mesothelioma clinical trials and emerging treatments.

The type of oncologist a mesothelioma patient will work with depends on the type of mesothelioma.

Pleural mesothelioma patients see thoracic oncologists. Patients with peritoneal mesothelioma should see oncologists with experience treating abdominal cancers.

Thoracic Oncologists

Thoracic oncologists specialize in treating cancers of the thorax (the chest cavity).

Thoracic oncology programs at cancer centers across the nation treat lung cancer, thymoma, tracheal cancer and other thoracic malignancies.

However, because pleural mesothelioma is so rare, not all thoracic oncology programs or thoracic oncologists have the expertise to treat this cancer.

Mesothelioma patients should seek treatment at a mesothelioma specialty center. This will ensure they receive care from a team with experience treating asbestos-related cancers.

Top Thoracic Oncologists for Pleural Mesothelioma

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.

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.

Oncologists for Peritoneal Mesothelioma

People diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma should receive treatment from an oncologist with experience treating peritoneal surface malignancies.

Peritoneal mesothelioma patients often live significantly longer than pleural mesothelioma patients. Surgery plays a major role in long-term survival.

The most successful treatment for this mesothelioma type is a combination of surgery and heated chemotherapy. Surgical oncologists with experience in treating peritoneal mesothelioma are best equipped to perform this procedure.

Top Surgical Oncologists for Peritoneal Mesothelioma

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.

W. Charles Conway
Surgical Oncologist

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.

Mecker Moller
Surgical Oncologist

Dr. Mecker Moller is a peritoneal mesothelioma specialist and a surgical oncologist at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in Florida. She specializes in the most effective procedure for peritoneal mesothelioma, which involves cytoreductive surgery and heated chemotherapy.

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How do Oncologists Help Plan Treatment Strategy?

Oncologists are an essential part of a multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists. They are the doctors who deliver a cancer diagnosis and recommend treatment options. They help coordinate care across multiple disciplines.

Types and Roles of Oncologists

  • Medical Oncologist: This is the most common area of oncology. Medical oncologists specialize in the treatment of solid tumors, including lung cancer and mesothelioma. They often treat cancer with chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy. Medical oncologists can also refer patients to a surgical oncologist for tumor-removing procedures.
  • Surgical Oncologist: These are general surgeons who have additional training in the removal of tumors. Surgical oncologists typically specialize within their particular discipline. For example, a thoracic surgeon with oncology training may perform tumor-removing surgery for lung cancer, esophageal cancer, mesothelioma and other malignancies.
  • Radiation Oncologist: These physicians specialize in treating cancers with radiation therapy.

A person diagnosed with mesothelioma will work with an oncologist or a team of oncologists during their cancer treatment. Oncologists manage the patient’s care throughout the course of the disease.

Oncologists work closely with other health care professionals, including pathologists, diagnostic radiologists, oncology nurses and oncology social workers.

Role of Oncologists for Mesothelioma

The terms “mesothelioma doctor” or “mesothelioma specialist” typically refer to medical oncologists or surgical oncologists who specialize in treating asbestos-related cancers.

The majority of mesothelioma patients do not qualify for surgery. Because of this, they may never meet or be evaluated by a surgical oncologist.

Instead, a medical oncologist will explain the cancer diagnosis and recommend treatment options such as chemotherapy. They also help the patient manage symptoms and treatment side effects.

Mesothelioma specialist speaking with a patient and his wife
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Do Oncologists Diagnose Mesothelioma?

Surgical oncologists can perform a biopsy to diagnose mesothelioma. However, most patients visit a general lung surgeon or gastrointestinal surgeon for a biopsy if cancer is suspected.

If the biopsy comes back positive for cancer, the patient is then referred to an oncology specialist.

Radiation Oncology for Mesothelioma

Radiation oncologists are specialty physicians who use radiation therapy to treat cancer.

Like surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists can specialize in treating certain types of cancer. For example, thoracic radiation oncology focuses on radiation therapy for lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Radiation therapy can be used to shrink tumors or prevent cancer recurrence. It is also used as a palliative treatment to relieve pain and manage symptoms.


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