Mesothelioma Treatments

Types of Mesothelioma Doctors

While mesothelioma is a type of cancer normally treated by oncologists, it is also a complex disease that requires the efforts of a number of different specialists. The oncologist is the lead member of the team, but there are many other doctors and medical professionals who are involved.

About Oncology

After you have been referred by your primary care physician, who is most likely a general practitioner, the oncologist is the doctor primarily responsible for confirming the diagnosis and designing your program of treatment. During the diagnosis, the oncologist will need to consult with another specialist, known as a pathologist.

In addition to the diagnosis and treatment, the oncologist must deal with many of the ethical cases that come into play, which include:

  • Sharing information about the disease and the patient's prognosis
  • Participation in clinical trials
  • When to continue, change or withdraw treatments
  • Carrying out a "Do Not Resuscitate" order
  • In a pluralistic society such as the U.S., this can require an exceptional level of cultural sensitivity and good communication skills in addition to the scientific knowledge required. Mesothelioma patients can benefit from knowing more about the types of doctors that are involved in mesothelioma treatment. More detailed information on top doctors and various treatment options is available in our comprehensive mesothelioma packet, which can be mailed directly to you by filling out the form on this page.

    About Pathology

    A pathologist's job is to determine the cause and nature of disease. They have to be a detective, especially when it comes to pleural mesothelioma because the symptoms of all lung diseases are quite similar. Fortunately, today's pathologists have many modern tools at their disposal, including magnetic resonance imaging, which provides crystal-clear, high-definition images of the internal organs. In addition, a new blood test developed by a Japanese biotech firm called MESOMARK®, has recently been approved for use in the U.S.

    Radiation Therapist and Chemotherapist

    Patients who undergo radiation treatments are treated by a radiation therapist. This job requires a great deal of precision because the beams of nuclear radiation (the same kind as is found in uranium or plutonium) that destroy cancer cells are not good for healthy cells. Radiation may be delivered as a narrow beam or injected into the tumor in a radioactive delivery device.

    The drugs that are used by the chemotherapist are similarly toxic and must be delivered in a highly controlled manner in order to avoid damaging healthy tissues. Chemotherapy may be administered in order to shrink the tumor and to prevent recurrence of a tumor that has been removed, or for palliative purposes.

    Pulmonologist

    A pulmonologist is a doctor that specializes in treatments for diseases of the lung. In addition to asbestos-related disease, this specialist also treats asthma, tuberculosis, emphysema and other lung disorders. This specialist can also prescribe treatments. In the case of mesothelioma, these treatments are primarily palliative, but may also include inhaled medication or oxygen therapy if indicated.

    If the mesothelioma tumor is located around the heart or digestive tract, the services of a cardiologist or gastroenterologist may be called upon as well. Any of these specialists may recommend surgical relief, although such surgery will actually be carried out by a thoracic surgeon.

    Thoracic Surgeon

    This doctor is trained in surgical techniques as applied to the internal organs of the chest (except for the heart itself, which is the province of the cardiac surgeon) and abdomen. In the case of mesothelioma, this surgeon must work closely with the oncologist and pulmonologist in order to carry out an operation. The thoracic surgeon may be called upon to perform a lobectomy, which involves removal of a diseased lung, as well as a pleurectomy, which is the removal of the diseased pleural lining.

    Immunologist

    In immunologist plays two roles in the treatment of mesothelioma and other cancers. The first role involves assisting the patient in dealing with what is often a compromised immune system, which is a common result of radiation treatments and chemotherapy. The second is related to recent research in which immunologists are studying ways to use the body's own immune system to fight cancer.

    The problem here has been the fact that cancer cells are not technically a "pathogen" like bacteria or viruses. It is a collection of the body's own normally healthy cells that have for some reason stopped dying off the way cells are supposed to. The challenge for immunologists has been to "train" antibodies to see cancer as a type of foreign pathogenic invader. Although progress has been made in this area, it will be some time before an immunologic approach will offer a viable treatment option.

    What You Should Know

    The process of gathering your treatment team may be difficult because of your insurer or by local availability, even though new Internet-based technologies make it quite easy for your doctors to consult with other specialists throughout the world. If you do have a say in the matter however, here are some things you should ask about:

  • Your doctors' educational background, experience and board-certifications (if applicable)
  • Availability and who covers for them should one or more be called away
  • Privacy policies
  • How many patients they have treated for your condition and their success rate
  • Where you will be treated
  • Availability of support and counseling services
  • Keep in mind that the treatment team works for - and is ultimately accountable to - you, the patient.

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