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You will encounter several different mesothelioma care providers during the process of diagnosis and treatment. Physicians and specialists perform tests to make a diagnosis and plan and implement treatment. Nurses, social workers, therapists, and other care providers offer supportive care.
Find a Cancer Treatment Center
Many, if not all, the care providers you need work at cancer treatment centers. These facilities specialize in treating cancer. A handful staff experts in mesothelioma. When finding mesothelioma treatment near you, look for facilities with mesothelioma specialists.
These specialists include physicians like oncologists and surgeons, but you also need many other healthcare professionals. The best treatment centers provide patients with teams of professionals like these.
There are many different types of doctors that you may see during diagnosis and treatment. Often a patient will visit their family doctor first. Your doctor will likely recommend other experts and specialists to provide appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
Primary Care Physician
A primary care physician is your regular family doctor. Typically, this is the first doctor you will visit when you have any symptoms or illness. This physician is often the first stop for someone whose mesothelioma has become symptomatic.
People with pleural mesothelioma may think they are experiencing a bad cough, cold, or bronchitis. As a result, they will make an appointment to be tested by their primary care providers.
From there, the primary care physician usually refers these patients to specialists who can narrow down the options to a final diagnosis.
A medical oncologist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer. Oncologists can be further specialized by treatment strategy or cancer type.
An oncologist can provide an accurate diagnosis of mesothelioma through biopsies of lung tissue or fluid combined with imaging techniques like PET scans and MRIs.
The oncologist will determine the type and stage of cancer and help you sort through treatment options and are the primary person responsible for chemotherapy treatment. The oncologist will also coordinate with other specialized care providers. They
A radiologist may work with an oncologist for imaging scans. They may also interpret imaging results to determine an exact diagnosis. A radiologist may perform more imaging tests during the treatment process to determine progress.
If your treatment plan includes surgery, you may be referred to a thoracic surgeon. A thoracic surgeon specializes in the surgical care of the chest cavity and all its organs, including the lungs.
For pleural mesothelioma, thoracic surgery is often a first or second line of treatment. Your surgeon will work with other specialists for a combined treatment approach. For example, a radiation oncologist may provide radiation treatment before and after surgery.
If radiation therapy is part of your multi-modal treatment plan, you will be referred to a radiation oncologist. A radiation oncologist is a cancer doctor who specializes in radiation treatment.
Your radiation oncologist will coordinate with other doctors to provide tailored care and treatment. For example, a radiation oncologist may work with surgeons and other oncologists who prescribe chemotherapy as part of a combined treatment approach.
Learn more about top mesothelioma specialists, including those in your area, here.
Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants, and Nurses
Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are registered nurses who have a Masters’s Degree and special licensing to assist the team in diagnosing and treating your cancer.
Physician Assistants (PAs) are also Masters’s level prepared but might have their initial undergraduate degree in something other than nursing. They often do routine tasks so physicians can give their attention to other things.
Nurses play a big role in patient care and safety. Some specialize in particular areas of medicine, like cancer or administering chemotherapy. They do much of the hands-on work of caring for patients. Nurses also educate patients, communicate between patients and doctors, and provide important emotional support.
Allied Health Professionals and Other Staff
Although doctors diagnose, plan treatment, order tests, and interpret results, other medical professionals will be involved in treatment and daily care:
- Rehabilitation specialists
- Physical and occupational therapists
- Repiratory therapists
- Radiology technicians
These support professionals provide the hard data the doctors analyze to diagnose and treat your cancer effectively. They are also responsible for helping patients feel comfortable and communicating needs and concerns to the physicians.
Social Workers and Mental Health Professionals
One of your care providers may refer you to an oncology social worker. A social worker can point you toward support resources you can use to cope with your mesothelioma diagnosis and treatment.
For example, they may refer you to mesothelioma support groups in your area or on the internet. A social worker may also refer your caregivers to a network of respite care providers.
Social workers may recommend counselors and therapists who understand the unique stresses mesothelioma patients and their families experience. Cancer patients often struggle with mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Caring for mental health is important for improving quality of life.
Although not technically medical professionals, caregivers—who are often family members—work with mesothelioma patients daily. These caregivers coordinate appointments, administer medications, prepare meals, and often keep life moving forward during the treatment process.
Can I Get All the Specialists I Need at a Cancer Treatment Center?
You should be able to find most or all of the healthcare providers you need at a treatment facility. The larger the facility, the more specialists will be on staff.
If you don’t seek treatment at a location with a dedicated mesothelioma team, it may be harder to find all the experts you need in one place. Your team can refer you to outside providers to get any additional care.
How Do I Find Care Providers and Specialists Near Me?
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer, which means you may struggle to find specialists close to where you live. Our state directory can point you to treatment centers and the nation’s leading mesothelioma experts nearest to you. Depending on your location, you may need to travel for the best care.
As you go through this medical journey, you will encounter these and other professionals who are there to help you. Never be afraid to ask questions and insist on answers and explanations before moving forward with treatment. When you understand who you are working with and what roles they play, you may feel safer and more comfortable being in their expert care.Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet
Page Medically Reviewed and Edited by Anne Courtney, AOCNP, DNP
Anne Courtney has a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree and is an Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner. She has years of oncology experience working with patients with malignant mesothelioma, as well as other types of cancer. Dr. Courtney currently works at University of Texas LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes.