People with mesothelioma often face many challenges. One of the biggest is finding a doctor to treat their disease.
There are many doctors in the United States, but how can you know which one to choose?
We at Mesothelioma Guide understand how stressful this situation can be for mesothelioma patients such as yourself. We also know how important this decision is, and we’re here to help you make the right one.
If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, your top priority should be doing everything in your power to get the best medical care possible. We recommend following these tips for finding a mesothelioma doctor. If you do, you’ll increase your chances of living well past your prognosis and potentially even beating this cancer.
If you need further assistance or have other questions, our patient advocate team is available by email or phone. Jenna Campagna is a registered nurse who can help connect you with the top mesothelioma specialists in the country. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need guidance with finding a doctor.
Tip #1: Experience Is Key
Mesothelioma is one of the rarest cancers known to man. Only around 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with it each year.
Since mesothelioma is an uncommon disease, experience is vital when searching for the right doctor.
Many doctors don’t have much experience diagnosing or treating the cancer. They often confuse it with other health conditions, such as pneumonia or even other malignancies (lung cancer, ovarian cancer, etc.).
Fortunately, some doctors specialize in mesothelioma. These experts have years of experience diagnosing and treating this disease. They’ve helped hundreds, if not thousands, of people just like yourself.
They are knowledgeable about where mesothelioma develops, how quickly it spreads, and what the tumors look like on scans and in a biopsy. We recommend prioritizing their expertise in your search.
Tip #2: Your Type of Mesothelioma Is Important
Not every patient’s mesothelioma is the same, and not every mesothelioma doctor is the same.
There are two primary types of this disease: pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma. The first develops in the thin cavity between your lungs and chest. The second forms in the narrow space that lines your abdomen.
These diseases are very different, with varying treatment methods and survival rates. Most mesothelioma doctors specialize in just one type. A few have experience treating both. Below are three of the top experts in the country:
- Dr. Abraham Lebenthal is a pleural mesothelioma specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
- Dr. Daniel Labow at Mount Sinai Cancer Center is a peritoneal mesothelioma specialist.
- Dr. Marcelo DaSilva at AdventHealth can treat both types of the cancer.
Tip #3: Choose a Doctor Who Works at a Center of Excellence
Where a doctor works is also a crucial factor in your decision. Not every hospital provides the same resources. World-renowned hospitals have a larger staff, more funding, a multi-disciplinary approach to care and up-to-date equipment.
All of those factors will benefit you during treatment.
In 2019, the Annals of Thoracic Surgery published the results of a study comparing mesothelioma survival rates between different types of hospitals. At low-volume hospitals, treatment is limited — or not as effective — compared to high-volume hospitals.
This discrepancy affects survival rates, which is why you should seek a doctor who works at a mesothelioma Center of Excellence.
Examples of these institutions include:
- Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston, Massachusetts)
- University of California Los Angeles Medical Center
- The Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota)
- MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston, Texas)
Tip #4: Find a Doctor Who Experiments With Different Treatments
There aren’t many mesothelioma treatment options approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The only two are chemotherapy — specifically, the drugs cisplatin and pemetrexed — and the NovoTTF-100L System (a device that sends tumor-killing electrical currents into your body).
However, the top mesothelioma doctors are committed to providing you with more curative treatment options.
Even though surgery isn’t technically FDA approved for mesothelioma, many esteemed hospitals and doctors use surgery along with chemotherapy and/or radiation, a combination that has shown life-extending results for patients.
Other specialists are involved in clinical trials, which experiment with emerging cancer treatment methods. These techniques have shown promise and helped many mesothelioma patients live for multiple years, which is well above the average survival rate.
The top emerging treatments used in clinical trials are:
- Gene therapy
- Intraoperative chemotherapy
Tip #5: Location Should Matter, but Not Above All Else
Mesothelioma is an aggressive disease. It can drain your physical energy. For that reason, many patients prioritize finding a local doctor.
Just the thought of getting on a plane or taking a long car ride is exhausting. Additionally, traveling costs money, and not every patient can afford to travel.
We understand why location matters, but we urge you not to dictate your decision around that factor.
Getting the best treatment possible should be your top priority. Don’t sacrifice experience and skill just for convenience. There may be a specialist a few states over who can deliver life-saving treatment. It’ll benefit you long-term to seek out the best doctors, no matter their location.
If you have concerns about cost, then you can seek financial assistance. Many organizations offer travel grants and free or affordable housing to mesothelioma patients traveling for treatment. So money shouldn’t be an issue, and we can even help you access these financial resources.
If you have a list of specialists who are equally qualified, then that’s when you should consider their proximity to you.
Our Doctor Match program is free of charge and can help you find a specialist who checks all boxes:
- Access to resources
- Considers different treatment options
Please fill out the form on our Doctor Match page, and one of our patient advocates will contact you with the information you need.
Show Sources & Author
- Disparities in Compliance with National Guidelines for the Treatment of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma. The Annals of Thoracic Surgery. Retrieved from:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31004585. Accessed: 04/24/19.