Anyone who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or is suspected of having asbestos cancer should seek treatment from a mesothelioma specialist. Because the disease is so rare, there are only limited mesothelioma specialists nationwide who understand the complexities of the disease and have the skill to effectively treat it.
Choosing the right mesothelioma doctor can be challenging, particularly at a time when stress levels are already high. But finding the right specialist can expedite successful treatment.
Importance of Mesothelioma Specialists
Many mesothelioma patients are initially diagnosed (or misdiagnosed) by general oncologists. However, experts say general oncologists are ill equipped to treat mesothelioma. Since mesothelioma accounts for a small percentage of all cancer cases nationwide, specialists are the best option for getting the effective treatment.
Mesothelioma specialists bring more to an asbestos-cancer diagnosis than just knowledge of the disease. They have specialized talents and aptitudes, including the following:
- Skill – Mesothelioma specialists can prepare individualized treatment plans based on the patient’s unique set of circumstances, drawing on years of experience treating mesothelioma and other types of cancer. These customized treatment plans give patients the best chance at treatment success.
- Experience – Most mesothelioma specialists have years, if not decades, of experience working with mesothelioma patients.This kind of experience is invaluable when trying to determine the best treatment plans. Mesothelioma experts have read, or even participated in, the latest studies and have the most current information for successful treatment.
- Connections – All of the top mesothelioma oncologists are connected with the top cancer centers in the nation, have inroads to the most current clinical trials and are skilled at the most advanced treatment.
In addition, mesothelioma specialists have areas of specialty, including lung (pleural mesothelioma), chest (pericardial mesothelioma) and stomach (peritoneal mesothelioma). These areas of specialty allow the medical experts to hyper-focus on specific disease treatment.
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How to Choose a Specialist
Mesothelioma specialists have become experts in the field because they spent years focusing on the disease process and cures. When determining the best specialist, patients need to ask questions about the doctor’s background, area of expertise, experience and skill level.
The following are some questions that should be asked before choosing a mesothelioma specialist:
- How many years have you been practicing?
- What is your experience with mesothelioma? (How many mesothelioma patients have you treated?)
- Where do you have admitting and surgical privileges?
- Do you participate in mesothelioma research and clinical trials?
- How often do you adjust treatment options to meet changes in the disease progression?
- How will I communicate directly with you? Who is your liaison?
In interviewing specialists, patients need to be acutely alert to their feelings when meeting the doctor for the first time. Patients who feel at-ease with their doctors and trust their judgment are more likely to have confidence in the process. Patients should ask themselves the following questions during and after an initial interview with the specialist:
- Is the doctor respectful to his patients and staff?
- Does the doctor speak and communicate clearly? Do I understand the information the doctor is telling me?
- Does the doctor take time to answer my questions to my satisfaction?
- Is the doctor willing to consider my treatment preferences?
Do Your Homework
In addition, patients should also dig into their potential doctor’s background to ensure there have been no past problems that may indicate future troubles. The following tips are also a good way to find the best mesothelioma doctor:
- Check medical credentials – Various organizations, including the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Medical Association, provide venues for patients to delve into physician backgrounds, including training, specialties and certificates.
- Research hospital affiliations – All of the leading mesothelioma specialists are affiliated with hospitals so they can provide superior treatment services. The National Cancer Institute and the American College of Surgeons index information about the annual caseloads for the hospitals and cancer centers in the United States and the overall involvement in research and clinical trials.
- Read reviews – Numerous websites offer unsolicited patient reviews of experiences with physicians. It is important to remember that the reviews are opinions about personal experiences and do not reflect actual data.
Leading Mesothelioma Doctors
There are a limited number of medical professionals who are known worldwide as experts in mesothelioma treatment. They include the following:
Dr. David Sugarbaker
- Director of Lung Institute at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of general thoracic surgery.
- A renowned thoracic surgeon, Sugarbaker is known worldwide as an expert in pleural mesothelioma treatment.
- He pioneered lifesaving treatments that include the Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP) surgery for mesothelioma.
Dr. Abraham Lebenthal
- Thoracic surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
- Director of minimally invasive thoracic surgery at VA Boston Healthcare System and instructor in surgery at Harvard Medical School.
- Lebenthal specializes in gastro-esophageal cancers, lung cancer and mesothelioma. He worked alongside Sugarbaker for years.
Dr. Robert Cameron
- Director of thoracic surgery at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and medical adviser for the Pacific Meso Center in California.
- Cameron developed the lung-sparing pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) surgery that has been successfully used as a curative procedure in scores of mesothelioma cases.
Dr. Raja Flores
- Chairman for the department of thoracic surgery for the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City.
- As a specialist in mesothelioma surgery, Flores established video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) lobectomy as the gold standard in lung cancer treatment. The minimally invasive surgery uses three small incisions to remove diseased sections of lungs.
Dr. Paul Sugarbaker
- Director of the Center for Surgical Oncology at the Washington Cancer Institute in Washington, D.C.
- As the leading expert in peritoneal mesothelioma treatment, Sugarbaker pioneered a treatment procedure that utilizes cytoreductive surgery and heated chemotherapy to remove cancerous tissue. He is Dr. David Sugarbaker’s older brother.
Dr. Anna Tsao
- Director of the mesothelioma and thoracic programs at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.
- Tsao spearheads pleural mesothelioma treatment at MD Anderson and continues groundbreaking research in disease treatment.
How We Help
The average mesothelioma patient is unfamiliar with the process of choosing a mesothelioma specialist. That’s where we come in.
Our Patient Advocates help mesothelioma patients contact physicians who specialize in pleural, pericardial or peritoneal mesothelioma.
Call our team now for a fast appointment with the nation’s leading mesothelioma specialists.
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- Abraham Lebenthal, M.D., M.H.A. The Division of Thoracic Surgery. Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Retrieved from http://www.chestsurg.org/about/staff/avi-lebenthal.aspx
- Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. David Sugarbaker will lead comprehensive lung center at Baylor. Retrieved from https://www.bcm.edu/news/appointments-faculty-staff/sugarbaker-will-lead-baylor-lung-center
- National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. How To Find a Doctor or Treatment Facility If You Have Cancer. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/doctor-facility