Being diagnosed with mesothelioma can be an overwhelming and frightening experience. Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart and is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos. While mesothelioma remains incurable, an experienced mesothelioma specialist can help patients navigate treatment options, improve quality of life, and extend life expectancy.
According to the American Cancer Society, around 3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma in the United States each year. With the proper medical team behind you, there is hope. Choosing the right mesothelioma specialist is one of the most important decisions you will make after being diagnosed.
Here are seven tips to help you find the best doctor for your specific needs.
1. Find a specialist who focuses solely on mesothelioma
Not all oncologists are equally knowledgeable about mesothelioma. It is absolutely vital to find a doctor who specializes exclusively in treating mesothelioma patients. A dedicated mesothelioma specialist will have much more clinical experience with the disease compared to a general oncologist. They will be fully up to date on the latest advances in mesothelioma treatment and emerging clinical trials. If you’re searching for such experts or need assistance connecting with them, www.mesotheliomahope.com is a helpful resource that specializes in providing guidance and connections to top mesothelioma doctors. A specialist understands the unique nature of mesothelioma versus other cancers.
A specialist understands the unique nature of mesothelioma versus other cancers. Mesothelioma’s origin, growth patterns, symptoms, and response to treatment can differ from more common cancers. A specialist is well-versed in these nuances. Their expertise can mean better diagnostic accuracy, staging, and treatment recommendations tailored to mesothelioma itself.
2. Choose an expert affiliated with a major cancer center
Prestigious cancer centers have specialized mesothelioma programs. Their multidisciplinary teams include surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, nurses, researchers, and other experts. Each member provides coordinated care based on their specialty.
These elite centers also conduct groundbreaking clinical trials. Their access to emerging treatments can give mesothelioma patients hope. Simply being treated at one of these leading facilities can improve your prognosis. Their volume of mesothelioma cases leads to more knowledge and experience.
Seeing a specialist who practices at these cancer centers gives you the benefit of their expertise. It also means they can connect you to the center’s broader resources. This comprehensive support system is invaluable for a complex diagnosis like mesothelioma.
3. Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion
Getting a second opinion is always wise with a serious diagnosis like mesothelioma. A different specialist may provide new insights about your particular case. They may suggest alternative treatments, clinical trials, or other options you had not considered.
Top cancer centers have specialists who offer second-opinion consultations upon request. Their outside perspective provides confidence that your diagnosis and plan are accurate. It also reveals if there are other avenues worth exploring.
A second opinion gives you more knowledge to make the best decisions.
4. Make sure your doctor has experience with your type of mesothelioma
Mesothelioma occurs in three main areas: the pleura, the peritoneum, and the pericardium. While many specialists treat all types, some have more extensive experience with a certain subset.
For instance, a thoracic surgeon may have performed hundreds of lung-sparing pleurectomy surgeries for pleural mesothelioma. Their expertise with that specific procedure could lead to better outcomes for you if you also have pleural disease.
An oncologist who has treated many peritoneal mesothelioma patients will understand nuances like how the disease spreads in the abdomen. They may know which chemotherapy drugs work best for that particular variant.
Discuss your exact diagnosis with each doctor you consider. Ask how many patients they have treated with the same type and stage of mesothelioma. Matching your diagnosis to each doctor’s niche area of expertise can optimize your treatment.
5. Consider your doctor’s experience with clinical trials
Clinical trials offer access to promising new therapies that are not yet widely available. Participating gives mesothelioma patients a chance to benefit from these cutting-edge advances before they become standard treatments.
Ask potential doctors about their involvement with clinical trials for mesothelioma. Have they enrolled many patients in studies? Do they conduct research themselves? These factors increase your chances of qualifying for a relevant trial.
6. Evaluate your doctor’s communication style
Facing mesothelioma is challenging emotionally and physically. Having a doctor who communicates well makes a big difference. Look for someone who listens closely, answers questions thoroughly, and makes you feel comfortable discussing sensitive topics.
While medical qualifications are important, bedside manner also affects the patient experience. Schedule a consultation to get a sense of how well you connect with each doctor. Having a supportive doctor-patient relationship built on trust and mutual understanding will help you go through difficult treatment decisions.
7. Confirm your doctor accepts your health insurance
Mesothelioma treatment is extremely expensive, often costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, clinical trials, and other therapies add up quickly. Having health insurance is essential to help manage these astronomical costs.
Before committing to any doctor, verify that they accept your specific insurance plan. Also, confirm the hospital or facility where they operate is in your insurer’s network. Out-of-network care often carries much higher out-of-pocket costs.
Speak to billing staff about your coverage details and anticipated costs. Get pre-approvals for treatment when required by your plan. Handling logistics upfront prevents financial shocks later. The last thing you need is money worries on top of coping with mesothelioma.
Selecting a mesothelioma specialist is one of the most critical decisions after a mesothelioma diagnosis. While the process takes time and effort, having the right doctor in your corner can significantly impact your treatment experience and outcome. Use these tips to find a doctor whose expertise, communication style, and personal treatment philosophy best fits your needs. With the right specialist guiding you, there is hope for a better quality of life even after a mesothelioma diagnosis.