Thoracic Surgeons and Mesothelioma

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Thoracic surgeons are doctors who operate on organs inside the chest, including the pleura, which is the lining around the lungs. Consulting a thoracic surgeon is part of medical care after a pleural or pericardial mesothelioma diagnosis.

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Thoracic surgeons operate on chest cavity organs such as the lungs, heart, pleura and pericardium.

The pleura is the membrane that lines the chest cavity and the lungs, while the pericardium is the membrane surrounding the heart.

These medical specialists are trained to perform surgery on people diagnosed with certain types of mesothelioma.

Thoracic surgeons are among the mesothelioma specialists who are on the front lines of treating and managing the disease.

For patients diagnosed with mesothelioma of the pleura or pericardium, consultation with a thoracic surgeon is an important part of medical care and treatment.

The Society of Thoracic Surgeons offers additional information on this important medical specialty.

What Is a Thoracic Surgeon?

Thoracic surgeons are doctors with specialized training to perform a variety of mesothelioma surgeries.

The most common surgeries include:

  • Biopsies of tissues in the chest cavity to diagnose disease
  • An exploratory operation to determine the extent of disease and best course of treatment going forward
  • Tumor removal to help treat pleural mesothelioma, and in some cases, put the disease in remission
  • Palliative surgery to improve symptoms, lessen pain and improve quality of life for people living with mesothelioma

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What Does a Thoracic Surgeon Do?

For patients with early-stage disease that has not spread beyond the original tumor, a thoracic surgeon can offer the best chance of long-term survival for pleural mesothelioma.

Even if surgery is not going to be a major component of how you treat mesothelioma, a thoracic surgeon still can be an important part of managing your disease.

Thoracic surgeons can obtain tissue samples of your disease, which will help your oncologist determine the best plan of care for you.

The mesothelioma cells making up your tumor may affect the type and amount of chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy treatments recommended for you.

One of the most important things your thoracic surgeon can do is to alleviate symptoms of disease.

Thoracic surgeons can remove fluid on or around your lungs, helping to alleviate shortness of breath and pain.

These procedures, called thoracentesis and pleurodesis, can help you feel much better, and quite literally, breathe easier.

How Do I Find a Mesothelioma Thoracic Surgeon Near Me?

Even if you don’t plan to have complete tumor removal as part of your pleural or pericardial mesothelioma care, ask your oncologist for a referral to a thoracic surgeon with experience treating mesothelioma.

If a mesothelioma-specialist thoracic surgeon is not available at your treatment center, you may want to consult with someone using telemedicine or traveling to a larger cancer treatment facility for a second opinion.

There may be new or emerging surgical techniques available to you now that haven’t been available previously.

Also consider clinical trials that include treatment by a thoracic surgeon who is collaborating with mesothelioma doctors, immunotherapy specialists and other experts.

This combination of medical team members can help you achieve the best possible outcomes after a mesothelioma diagnosis. lists dozens of studies that include thoracic surgery as part of the treatment being studied.

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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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1 Cited Article Sources

  1. National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms. Thoracic surgeon. . Retrieved from:

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Last Modified August 5, 2019

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