Treating mesothelioma is extremely complex, which is why patients receive multi-modality therapy. A single therapy is not able to control the disease. The complex nature of the disease also makes it necessary for more than one practitioner to treat the individual. The following list includes the kinds of specialists that work directly with the patient and behind the scenes to diagnose and manage a patient’s mesothelioma:
- Pathologist – These are doctors who work to diagnose and manage mesothelioma by using laboratory analysis. They evaluate biopsied tissue to determine whether or not it is mesothelioma. They also examine tissue and body fluids to determine what types of cells make up the tumor and how advanced the disease may be. The pathologist usually acts as a consultant to the oncologist in making any final determinations regarding treatment. However, the mesothelioma patient usually never meets the pathologist.
- Radiologist – These are doctors who are experts in analyzing medical images. They assist in diagnosis and treatment by performing tests that include x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasound.
- Medical oncologist – The treatment of mesothelioma through medication is what a medical oncologist does. This is the doctor that will prescribe the patient’s chemotherapy regimen.
- Surgical oncologist – If the tumor can be removed, a surgical oncologist will perform the procedure. Many surgical oncologists specialize in particular areas of the body.
- Radiation oncologist – These doctors specialize in treating mesothelioma through radiation therapy that is administered as the main form of treatment. The radiation can be given in combination with surgery and chemotherapy. The radiation oncologist can also provide radiation therapy to alleviate symptoms if the disease is beyond the stage where it is treatable.
- Pain management doctors – These specialists are knowledgeable about the various methods of relieving, reducing and managing pain associated with the disease itself and with mesothelioma treatments.
- Oncology nurse – These nurses receive special certification. They must have at least one year of experience as an RN, 1,000 hours of actual experience as an oncology nurse, and they must complete 10 hours of continuing education to become certified. They are qualified to help administer chemotherapy, coordinate care between the institution and home, and work on clinical trials.
- Palliative care occupational therapists – Patients with advanced mesothelioma receive palliative care to relieve stress. The therapist accomplishes this through relaxation exercises and engaging the patient in creative activities.
- Oncology social worker – These specialists counsel mesothelioma patients and their families. They can also provide educational information and referrals to community resources. In addition, the oncology social worker can guide patients and their families through the health care system to access services and support necessary to cope with the challenges of living with mesothelioma.
- Dietitian- Cancer patients have special nutritional needs and dietitians can answer questions about what types of foods/menu plans can meet those needs. A registered dietitian must complete between six to 12 months of training in an accredited practice program in addition to passing a national examination.