The treatments for mesothelioma often require patients to interact with a wide variety of doctors. Each of these doctors has a specific practice area and role to play in the patient’s treatment, but sometimes patients can find it difficult to keep their roles straight. Some of the doctors a patient may meet include a medical oncologist, a radiation oncologist, a medical dosimetrist, a thoracic surgeon, and a respiratory therapist.
The medical oncologist’s role is to manage a cancer patient’s treatment from a pharmaceutical perspective. This means that they will handle coordinating the patient’s chemotherapy, but they do more than just that. They also develop a treatment program to handle the pain and other symptoms of the cancer. Additionally, they often head the treatment team and organize the other specialists.
Radiation oncologists and medical dosimetrists work together as the part of the treatment team that handles a patient’s radiation treatments. The process begins with the radiation oncologist, who deals with the planning. They will determine the proper dose of radiation as well as the best delivery method for it. Once the radiation oncologist decides on a treatment regimen, they pass that information along to the medical dosimetrist. The dosimetrist handles the actual administering of the treatment, such as calibrating the machines and calculating the precise radiation dosages.
The thoracic surgeon may play a role in the care of people with pleural mesothelioma. In the event that the doctors decide to treat a patient’s mesothelioma with surgery, the planning and execution of that treatment will fall to the thoracic surgeon. The surgeon will often also remain as part of the team after the surgery is over to handle any complications that may arise. If a person has peritoneal mesothelioma instead of pleural, then a general surgeon would fill this role instead.
Another common member of the team is the respiratory therapist or pulmonologist. The job of the respiratory therapist is to improve the patient’s lung function. Often this will involve training in breathing exercises or breathing techniques to help patients take in more oxygen.
Some cancer teams may also include a variety of other members depending on the treatment center. For instance, the team may bring in a palliative care specialist to help manage the patient’s symptoms. Additionally, many treatment centers believe that there is value in assigning a psychologist or psychiatrist to a patient to alleviate the emotional difficulties of a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Questions to Keep in Mind When Choosing a Doctor
Choosing a doctor or treatment center for your mesothelioma is an important decision that can affect your ultimate prognosis. This choice can be particularly difficult because of the relative rarity of mesothelioma compared to other cancers. It accounts for only 0.3 percent of all cancer cases, so finding a person who specializes in its treatment can be a challenge. While each person’s exact situation is unique, here are some questions for you to keep in mind while you make your decision:
· How long has the doctor been practicing?
· How much experience does the doctor have treating mesothelioma?
· Does the doctor accept your insurance plan?
· What sorts of treatments does the doctor favor?
· Can this doctor provide you with access to clinical trials that may arise?
· Can you easily and reliably make it to the center for your mesothelioma treatment?