You’ll be seeing a lot of mesothelioma doctors if you’ve been diagnosed with an asbestos related disease. It can become overwhelming when you are referred to different types of specialists or sent to various mesothelioma cancer clinics. Understanding just what each of the different types of doctors do and how they will handle your mesothelioma treatment options will take away some of the apprehension.
Mesothelioma doctors and oncologists are medical professionals who specialize in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer that primarily affects the lining of the lungs (pleural mesothelioma) but can also occur in the lining of the abdomen (peritoneal mesothelioma), heart (pericardial mesothelioma), or testicles (testicular mesothelioma). Mesothelioma is most commonly associated with asbestos exposure.
Here’s an overview of what mesothelioma doctors and oncologists do:
- Identifying and confirming the presence of mesothelioma through various diagnostic tests, including imaging studies like X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and PET scans.
- Conducting biopsies to obtain tissue samples for histological examination, which helps in determining the type and extent of the cancer.
- Determining the stage of the mesothelioma to assess how far the cancer has progressed. Staging helps guide treatment decisions and predict the prognosis.
- Developing personalized treatment plans based on the stage, type, and overall health of the patient.
- Recommending treatment options, which may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy.
- Coordinating with a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals, such as surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, and nurses, to provide comprehensive care.
- Performing surgery when it’s a viable option. Surgical procedures for mesothelioma may include pleurectomy/decortication (removal of the pleural lining), extrapleural pneumonectomy (removal of the affected lung and surrounding tissues), and cytoreductive surgery with heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy for peritoneal mesothelioma.
- Administering chemotherapy drugs to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be given before or after surgery, depending on the case.
- Radiation Therapy:
- Using high-energy rays to target and destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy can be used in combination with surgery or as a standalone treatment.
- Exploring and utilizing immunotherapy drugs that help the patient’s immune system fight the cancer.
- Employing drugs that specifically target the molecular pathways and genetic mutations associated with mesothelioma.
- Providing supportive care to manage symptoms, relieve pain, and improve the patient’s quality of life, especially in advanced cases where a cure may not be possible.
- Clinical Trials:
- Offering eligible patients the option to participate in clinical trials to access experimental treatments and contribute to the advancement of mesothelioma research.
- Long-term Management:
- Monitoring the patient’s progress and adjusting the treatment plan as necessary.
- Providing ongoing care, addressing side effects, and supporting the patient’s physical and emotional well-being.
Mesothelioma doctors and oncologists play a crucial role in guiding patients through their mesothelioma journey, from diagnosis to treatment and ongoing care. It’s important for patients to seek care from experienced healthcare professionals who are knowledgeable about mesothelioma and its complex treatment options.
Almost all mesothelioma doctors concentrate on a specialty of some type and some of these doctors have specialties that overlap. Since mesothelioma affects different parts of the body and is a form of cancer, there are several different types of specialists who are trained to treat this disease.
Oncologists are physicians who specialize in treating not only mesothelioma but cancers of all types. Their focus is specifically on therapies such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer. The oncologist is the doctor who will focus on treating any mesothelioma cancer tumors you might have. To differentiate between the two specialists, the doctor who focuses on radiation therapy is more specifically called “radiation oncologist,” while oncologist more often refers to someone who specializes in chemotherapy.
A pulmonary specialist, or pulmonologist, focuses on the treatment of various diseases relating to the lungs. They can treat any number of disorders such as asthma, COPD and other breathing related illnesses. Mesothelioma doctors who are pulmonologists can also treat other asbestos related diseases such as asbestosis which may not involve an actual tumor or cancer.
If you are considering a drastic treatment such as surgery for mesothelioma, thoracic surgeons are needed. These doctors are highly specialized in doing invasive surgery on the lungs, heart and chest. These surgeons are one of the many mesothelioma cancer doctors who are trained to treat different types of mesothelioma, whether heart, abdomen or lung.
None of your mesothelioma doctors can treat you effectively without the support of a medical pathologist who will do tests on you regularly to monitor progress. The pathologist will do blood and urine tests and interpret some biopsies in order to determine the condition and extent of your illness. You will most likely never meet the pathologist who is working on your case, but this doctor is integral to treating your mesothelioma and helps guide the other doctors in making the right treatment choices for you.
Cancer Treatment Clinics
Mesothelioma specialists often work in teams in specialized cancer treatment clinics so that you won’t have to travel to a variety of different locations to see a particular doctor and to receive treatment of your mesothelioma cancer. The treatment team formula also ensures that every doctor and specialist is “on the same page” and is clear as to what treatment path is being followed; this way, all of the different procedures compliment each other for the most efficient treatment.
Talk to your diagnosing doctor to see if there is an asbestos lung cancer treatment center near you that offers specialized team care. If there is, consider obtaining treatment there if possible – they have some of the best and brightest mesothelioma doctors in the country.