The composition of your mesothelioma healthcare team will depend on your mesothelioma type and the stage at which you are diagnosed. The medical professionals who will provide support to you and your family may change over time, as your needs change.
When you understand what mesothelioma healthcare providers you need and want to work with, you are able to be a better advocate for your own care. Here are some of the medical professionals you may want on your mesothelioma healthcare team.
Primary Care for Mesothelioma
The first point of contact when you start to notice mesothelioma symptoms is your primary care physician. Although your mesothelioma healthcare will involve many other specialists, it’s important to keep your personal doctor on your medical team.
Your doctor knows about other medical conditions you may have and the medications you’re taking for them. Keep your doctor in the loop.
If you are confused or unsure about a medical decision, your trusted family physician can be a great resource. Your doctor isn’t a mesothelioma specialist, but he or she knows you well and can be a crucial ally as you navigate your mesothelioma healthcare.
In the course of mesothelioma treatment, you will probably see a number of cancer specialists. Here are some of the main people you will probably want on your mesothelioma healthcare team.
Medical Oncologist: Oncologists are doctors who specialize in the diagnosis, care, and treatment of cancer patients. You may need to see an oncologist to confirm your mesothelioma diagnosis. You may see more than one oncologist during the course of your mesothelioma healthcare. There are oncologists who specialize in specific areas of cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy and immunotherapy.
Pathologist: Whether you meet your pathologist or not, you will probably have one or more on your mesothelioma healthcare team. Pathologists specialize in identifying the markers of disease. A pathologist will examine your tissue and lab samples under a microscope. This analysis will provide crucial information for your mesothelioma diagnosis and treatment.
Thoracic Surgeon: If you have pleural mesothelioma and you qualify for mesothelioma surgery, your procedure will be performed by a thoracic surgeon. Thoracic surgeons specialize in surgeries on the organs inside the chest cavity and receive specialized training to perform these sensitive procedures.
Radiation Oncologist: If your mesothelioma healthcare plan includes radiation therapy, you’ll work with a radiation oncologist to plan and execute your treatment, often assisted by radiation therapists who are healthcare professionals trained to administer radiation treatments to cancer patients. They will administer the radiation prescribed by your radiation oncologist, make all the measurements necessary to direct the radiation to its exact target, and keep tabs on your condition to make sure you are able to tolerate the treatments.
Oncology Nurse: An oncology nurse is a nurse who specializes in cancer treatment. Oncology nurses are often the professionals responsible for administering intravenous chemotherapy and immunotherapy treatments. You may get care from oncology nurses before and after surgery and at other times during your mesothelioma healthcare. These trained professionals are vital members of your cancer care team. As with other areas of healthcare, nurses are often the glue that holds a treatment plan together.
Mesothelioma Healthcare Experts
While oncology specialists are common, oncologists who specialize in mesothelioma are not. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Only about 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the US every year.
Even if you don’t live near a doctor who specializes in mesothelioma, you can still have a mesothelioma specialist on your team. You can travel to see a specialist or work with one through telemedicine.
Some of the facilities that provide cutting edge mesothelioma research and treatment in the United States include UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco; Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, CA and the University of Chicago. Ask your oncologist or primary care physician to help you connect with a mesothelioma specialist so you can receive the best possible mesothelioma healthcare. As a start, we provide a state-by-state list of mesothelioma doctors right here on our website.
Mesothelioma Healthcare for Veterans
Many mesothelioma patients were exposed to asbestos during military service. If you are a veteran with mesothelioma, particularly if you served during the Vietnam era, you may be eligible to receive your mesothelioma healthcare through the VA.
Because of the number of veterans who have developed mesothelioma, the VA employs some of the country’s best mesothelioma doctors. Not every VA medical center has mesothelioma specialists on staff, but you have the right to travel to a facility with mesothelioma specialists. You can also work remotely with these doctors through telemedicine.
The San Francisco and Palo Alto VA medical centers include well-respected mesothelioma treatment centers with staff and faculty affiliated with UCSF and Stanford, respectively. If you qualify for mesothelioma healthcare through the VA, request that a mesothelioma specialist be included in your medical team.
Alternative Mesothelioma Healthcare
You may choose to add alternative therapies to your mesothelioma healthcare plan. Alternative medical professionals can provide treatments that support your immune system, ease pain, and reduce stress. Only choose reputable practitioners and be wary of unproven “miracle” cures. Always communicate alternative treatments to your oncologist and primary care doctor, to avoid taking medications that react with each other or cancel each other out.
Here are some of the alternative providers you might choose for your mesothelioma healthcare team:
Acupuncturist: Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese healing art that uses tiny needles to work with your body’s energy meridians. Chinese practitioners can also prescribe herbs to boost your vitality.
Homeopath: Homeopaths give miniscule doses of natural substances to stimulate the body’s natural self-healing abilities. Homeopathic medicines are generally very gentle and can provide support for your mental and physical well-being.
Massage Therapist: Being in pain is stressful to your body. Massage can provide relief for sore muscles due to stress or inactivity.
Additional Mesothelioma Healthcare Resources
Depression is a very common symptom among cancer patients and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It is something to be treated. If you feel like you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning or your outlook on life has become melancholy, you don’t have to suffer. Add mental health professionals to your mesothelioma healthcare team.
Depending on the resources offered by your local medical center and the care that your insurance will cover, you may have a range of mental healthcare choices. You could choose talk therapy sessions with a counselor or psychologist, a psychiatrist who can prescribe medication for depression, or a patients’ support group or group therapy.
There is no wrong way to build a mesothelioma healthcare team. The key is to choose the medical professionals you need to provide you with terrific care. Don’t be afraid to speak up and seek out the specialists you want on your team.
You shouldn’t limit your team based on cost considerations even if your medical insurance won’t cover everything you think you need. If you have a good mesothelioma legal team helping you, it can often arrange to insure you have the funds you need when you need them so you can get the very best care.