Doctor examines a lung radiography

Many factors can influence a mesothelioma patient’s survival time. Finding the right hospital and medical professional to guide the treatment plan and to proactively manage the care is the strongest weapon in fighting the disease and improving your outcome. Due to the relative rarity of mesothelioma among the general population, it is recommended that mesothelioma treatment be led by a mesothelioma specialist rather than by a primary physician. Medical professionals that specialize in the treatment of mesothelioma patients realize that with a collaborative and multi-modal treatment approach patients have more options available to them.   Mesothelioma specialists are aware of the latest research and are able to develop a more informed treatment plan. In many cases, the mesothelioma specialist will develop the protocol and will supervise its implementation even as the patient still meets with his or her personal doctor.   Mesothelioma has a unique set of treatment requirements and specialists serve a key role in interpreting and defining the best approach for caring for the patient.

First of all, you have to prepare for your first appointment. Typically there is a new patient orientation that takes place on the same day as your initial visit with your physician. It can definitely be overwhelming, and there are a lot of things to do and faces to remember. But keep in mind that you can always ask questions, and it is a good idea to bring a list of them with you. In fact, one thing you should bring with you is a notebook or folder – something that is secure and can hold medical records and critical information.

The group that runs the orientation phase of the program is led by our social worker and chaplaincy service. In this brief session, they will review options to help make your journey as smooth as possible. For instance, they may be able to assist with housing options if you are out of state and need assistance. Also, they can help with paperwork filing for disability travel arrangements. If desired, they can connect you with another patient who has already traveled down this road. You will meet other patients and families who are at the same stage of life that you are.

Palliative care could possibly help to improve your quality of life. If you are experiencing pain or anxiety, this will also be addressed. Many people like to choose alternative therapies and some centers offer support for this as well. Where I work, we have a Reiki specialist that can help alleviate anxiety and help you to relax. There is a chaplaincy that is available as well.

A nutritionist is provided to help improve your overall status whether it is to help you gain weight or to help you choose more nutritious food. Possibly you are having difficulty swallowing, and if so, they can help you choose foods that are easier to consume. There are many professionals that you will be involved with, but remember, this is all for you so take advantage of these resources and make the most of them.

A Closer Look at Your Medical Team

Several types of physicians can be involved in the treatment of mesothelioma.  Often physicians’ specialties will overlap and several doctors may be available to offer treatment and support in the same discipline.  Types of doctors that may be included on a team are:

The medical oncologist is checking the radiographic film Oncologists
Medical professionals specializing in cancer and there are three types of oncologists: Medical, Surgical and Radiation. These three types of oncologists will work together to care for cancer patients.

The Medical Oncologist specializes in treatment with chemotherapy and other drugs. The Surgical Oncologist specializes in removing the tumor and tissue surrounding the tumor. The Radiation Oncologist specializes in treating cancer with radiation therapy.

Thoracic surgeons perform the operation

Thoracic surgeonsThoracic surgery is the field of medicine involved in the surgical treatment of diseases affecting the thorax or the chest including the lungs, chest wall, and diaphragm. The thoracic surgeon performs operations on organs located in the thorax, including lungs, heart and esophagus.

The pulmonologist is checking the radiographic film of mesothelioma patientPulmonologistsPhysicians specializing in the treatment of diseases of the lungs and the respiratory tract. Pulmonologists are also known as pulmonary disease specialists and they treat conditions like: lung cancer, mesothelioma, tuberculosis, asthma, bronchitis, emphysema.

The Chemotherapy Oncology Nurse is assisting the patientChemotherapy (oncology) NurseThe RN or team of nurses responsible for patient assessment, chemotherapy administration and supportive care during the chemotherapy treatment.

A Radiation Therapist   Radiation TherapistWorks with the radiation oncologist and is the one who actually administers radiation therapy.   In addition to the above specialists many other medical professionals may be supporting the patient’s needs such as nutritionists, pharmacists, and the primary care physician.

  1. Pass, I., Vogelzang, N., Carbone, M. Malignant Mesothelioma: Advances in Pathogenesis, Diagnosis, and Transitional Therapies. Springer: New York. 2005.
  2. De Perrot, M., Feld, R., Cho, B.C. J., Bezjak, A., Anraku, M., et al.. Trimodality therapy with induction chemotherapy followed by extrapleural pneumonectomy and adjuvant high-dose hemithoracic radiation for malignant pleural mesothelioma. Retrieved from http://ascopubs.org/doi/abs/10.1200/jco.2008.17.5604?keytype2=tf_ipsecsha&ijkey=cc3963ea9a3a4bb5b4de2a5ed1215dfe6c125413
  3. Munkholm-Larsen, S., Cao, C. Q., & Yan, T. D. (2009). Malignant pleural mesothelioma. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2999110/
  4. Stahel, R.A., Weder, W., Lievens, Y., & Felip, E. (2010). Malignant pleural mesothelioma: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Retrieved from http://annonc.oxfordjournals.org/content/21/suppl_5/v126.long
  5. The take Charge Patient – award-winning author Martine Ehrenclou, M.A., empowers patients to become proactive, assertive, well-informed participants in their own health care.
Published: Jan 5, 2017 - Updated: Jan 18, 2017