Getting to Know Your Cancer Care Team
A Who’s Who of the medical professionals responsible for your care during treatment.
Anesthesiologists administer anesthesia (drugs that allow patients to sleep or not feel pain during surgical and medical procedures). This type of doctor helps ensure the safety of patients undergoing surgery.
Cardiologists specialize in treating heart-related issues. Patients with pericardial mesothelioma, or those with prior or existing heart conditions, may be referred to see a cardiologist for further treatment. Sometimes, patients are also referred to a cardiologist for cardiac clearance prior to mesothelioma surgery.
Gastroenterologists specialize in the treatment of diseases of the stomach and liver. Patients with peritoneal mesothelioma may be sent to a gastroenterologist for further evaluation and treatment, if necessary.
General Practitioner and Primary Care Physician
General practitioners also called primary care or family physicians, treat patients of all ages and with varying health conditions. They are often seen for annual check-ups and preventive medicine and will provide referrals to patients in need of a specialist. They are often a patient’s first point of contact when medical issues arise.
General surgery is, in fact, a surgical specialty. General surgeons are trained to perform surgery for a number of common conditions and are responsible for patient care before, during, and after surgery.
Histopathologists, sometimes simply called pathologists, specialize in the study of diseased cells. Their primary role is to analyze biopsies and identify the type of mesothelioma cells present in tumors. Though pathologists work with a cancer care team, patients are unlikely to meet with them directly.
Medical oncologists are doctors who specialize in treating cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy or targeted therapy. The cancer care team will include an oncologist to determine their course of treatment.
Palliative Care Specialist
Palliative care specialists are doctors and nurses who help with patient pain or symptoms management. They can also help patients and their families make important medical decisions and connect them with support resources.
Pulmonologists specialize in treating lung and respiratory diseases. This type of doctor is often the first to diagnose pleural mesothelioma or asbestosis and can help pleural mesothelioma patients establish a pulmonary rehabilitation regimen of exercise, diet, and breathing techniques.
Radiation oncologists specialize in treating cancer with radiation therapy. If radiation is part of the treatment plan, the patient will work with a radiation oncologist to prepare, receive, and recover from radiation therapy.
Radiologists oversee the imaging tests used to diagnose mesotheliomas, such as X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and PET scans. These tests are also used to help monitor the progress of the disease to see if the tumors are getting larger or smaller.
Surgical oncologists are doctors who treat cancer with surgery, specifically through surgical tumor resections (i.e., removals). If a patient and their doctor decide to pursue surgery as a course of treatment, the surgical oncologist is responsible for performing the surgery.
Thoracic surgeons are specialized surgeons who treat the organs of the chest, such as the lungs and heart. Thoracic surgeons who further specialize in treating the heart are also referred to as cardiothoracic surgeons. Patients with pleural mesothelioma typically receive diagnostic tests and treatment from thoracic surgeons.
Overwhelmed by your mesothelioma diagnosis? Download our free guide to learn more about the disease.
Other Medical Professionals
Dietitians are experts in human nutrition and diet. They are regulated, health care professionals licensed to assess and treat nutritional issues, especially in patients battling medical conditions such as cancer. Be sure to see a dietitian or certified nutritionist. Non-certified nutritionists are not required to receive any formal training and may not provide patients with product dietary recommendations.
Genetic counselors are trained in understanding the genetics of the disease. Some patients may be referred to genetic counselors to review genetic testing results, and to understand if there are any genetic causes or implications of mesothelioma. Understanding these implications is important before getting tested.
Mental Health Professionals
Psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, and counselors may also be part of a patient’s cancer care team. These health care professionals specialize in treating the emotional well-being of patients and their families.
Nurse practitioners (NPs) are advanced practice registered nurses. They are able to assess patient needs and help craft treatment plans.
Physician assistants (PAs) are health care professionals practicing medicine under a supervising physician. They are licensed to diagnose and treat patients.
Occupational and physical therapists help you regain strength and skills after treatment or surgery. Respiratory therapists assist with breathing problems.
Finding Help with Treatment
If you, or someone you love, have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you may find that your family has been overwhelmed by the costs of treatment. However, you may be eligible for legal compensation. Reach out to an attorney that specializes in mesothelioma cases through our free case evaluation form. They can assist you in identifying your options.