Mesothelioma Oncologists

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Oncologists are doctors who specialize in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The three main fields of oncology care are medical, surgical and radiation oncology. Mesothelioma patients typically deal with oncologists in all three major areas of oncology.

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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 Guide

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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

Dr. Abraham Lebenthal, pleural mesothelioma doctor

Abraham Lebenthal

Brigham and Women's Hospital

Dr. Abraham Lebenthal is a respected thoracic surgeon who treats pleural mesothelioma patients at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Boston VA Hospital. Lebenthal worked alongside Dr. David Sugarbaker at Brigham and teaches at Harvard Medical School.

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Dr. Robert B. Cameron, pleural mesothelioma doctor

Robert B. Cameron

UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center

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.

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Dr. Jacques Fontaine, pleural mesothelioma doctor and expert contributor for

Jacques Fontaine

H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center

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.

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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

Dr. Paul H. Sugarbaker, peritoneal mesothelioma doctor

Paul H. Sugarbaker

Washington Cancer Center

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.

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Dr. W. Charles Conway, peritoneal mesothelioma doctor & expert contributor for

W. Charles Conway

Ridley-Tree Cancer Center

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.

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Dr. J.F. Pingpank Jr., peritoneal mesothelioma doctor

J.F. Pingpank Jr.

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

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.

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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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Registered Nurse and Patient Advocate

Karen Selby joined in 2009. She is a registered nurse with a background in oncology and thoracic surgery and was the regional 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.

Walter Pacheco, Managing Editor at
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4 Cited Article Sources

  1. (2018, March). Types of Oncologists.
    Retrieved from:
  2. Santiago, A. (2018, March 1). Areas of Sub-Specialty Within the Field of Oncology.
    Retrieved from:
  3. Moffitt Cancer Center. (2017). Thoracic Oncology Program.
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  4. (2016, December). What to Expect When Having Radiation Therapy. Retrieved from:

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Last Modified September 10, 2019

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