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During the course of a patient's diagnosis and treatment, he or she will come into contact with many different health care professionals, particularly doctors and specialists. Some are more qualified than others to guide your care, so it's important that you meet with the appropriate specialist.
You probably have a primary health care provider whom you have been seeing for many years. This is the person you are most likely to visit when your symptoms become severe enough to compel you to seek treatment for them.
If your primary health care provider knows that you have been exposed to asbestos, he or she will order preliminary tests so a diagnosis may be made. If these chest x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs tests suggest you have mesothelioma, you will be referred to a pulmonologist for a tissue biopsy.
A pulmonologist is a doctor specializing in lung diseases. Your pulmonologist will perform your biopsy through a thoracoscopy, the insertion of a small tube between your ribs. In some cases, it may be necessary for a surgeon to obtain the tissue through a procedure called a thoracotomy, which surgically opens the chest.
Once the diagnosis has been made, you will be referred to a medical oncologist. Your oncologist will determine how advanced your mesothelioma is, a process called staging. From there, he or she will help you make decisions about the appropriate treatment options to pursue. Depending on the staging of your disease, treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. If you pursue chemotherapy, your oncologist will oversee your treatments.
A thoracic surgeon is trained extensively in surgical procedures involving the organs of the chest and the components of the respiratory system. This includes the heart, diaphragm, esophagus, and chest wall. Thoracic surgeries include a procedure that removes all or part of the diseased lung, called a pleurectomy. They also include a procedure that removes the diseased lung as well as affected parts of the heart, lung, and chest wall, called an extrapleural pneumonectomy.
Radiation has not been shown to increase the life expectancy of mesothelioma patients when used alone. However, it is a successful treatment option when combined with surgery and chemotherapy. The person who handles this process is a radiologist, a physician who specializes in using imaging technology for diagnostic purposes. Other times, a radiation oncologist oversees it.
Would you like to find out more about the role physicians play in mesothelioma treatment? MesoLink.org publishes a free information packet that you can obtain by mail, simply fill out the form above.