Mesothelioma specialists are experts in applying disciplines like oncology, radiology, pathology and s@rgery to the treatment of this rare type of cancer. If you think you have mesothelioma and want to know more about who can treat it, then read more below.
A handful of physicians have dedicated their careers to the study and treatment of mesothelioma, because it’s such a rare disease that affects only around 3,000 people each year in the United States alone. The specialists have access to an extensive network of support from other professionals within their field who can help guide their diagnoses and treatments.
How doctors diagnose mesothelioma
During an examination, mesothelioma specialists will evaluate all factors in your medical history. Doctors will begin by performing a series of diagnostic tests to rule out other causes for symptoms of mesothelioma. Once these tests have been completed, doctors may order imaging studies such as X-rays or CT scans to check for fluid accumulation and inflammation around the lungs and heart.
If fluid is present, it’s likely caused by pleural effusion – a condition in which excess fluid builds up around the lining of your lungs. Pleural effusion can be caused by heart failure, lung cancer or mesothelioma. Some mesothelioma specialists may also use an ultrasound test to check for abnormalities in your abdomen. Ultrasounds are sound waves used to make pictures of internal organs without using X-rays or CT scans.
Types of mesothelioma
Mesothelioma specialists have been trained in oncology, radiology, pathology and surgery. You may be wondering why these particular fields are important when it comes to dealing with mesothelioma; well, mesothelioma can only be treated by experts that understand both how to treat and diagnose it. Before being diagnosed with mesothelioma, you should know that there are two types of mesotheliomas.
1. Peritoneal mesothelioma is when cancerous cells are found in your abdominal cavity, which is otherwise known as your peritoneum. This type of mesothelioma develops from exposure to asbestos and can be treated by specialists that understand how to treat it, such as oncologists and surgeons.
2. Pleural mesothelioma is when cancerous cells are found in your lungs or chest wall, which is otherwise known as your pleura.
Asbestos exposure to any part of your body can lead to developing pleural mesothelioma. Exposure might be occupational, such as being an asbestos miner and then going on to develop an aggressive form of pleural mesothelioma from long-term inhalation. Other forms of exposure include living near old industrial sites that once used asbestos and naturally occurring materials that are fibrous and contain asbestos fibers.
Risk factors and causes
Since mesothelioma has its roots in asbestos exposure, it makes sense that someone with an asbestos-related disorder would be at higher risk of developing mesothelioma. The most common risk factors include having worked in certain industries that exposed workers to high amounts of asbestos (like mining and manufacturing) or having been exposed as a military service member. In addition, people who have had certain kinds of surgery—particularly procedures involving abdominal organs—may also be at higher risk of contracting mesothelioma.
Treatment methods – Surgery
Mesothelioma is not considered to be surgically curable, but it can be treated with surgery. Surgery to remove tumors and/or scar tissue may reduce symptoms, improve function and prolong life. Depending on their locations and sizes, these procedures may involve
(1) radical pleurectomy;
(2) VATS biopsy; or
(3) pleurodesis. In some cases, patients are offered more than one type of surgical procedure.
Treatment methods – Drugs
One of many effective treatments used to fight mesothelioma is chemotherapy. For those that are not familiar with it, chemotherapy is a type of drug treatment in which cells are exposed to chemicals or other agents that kill them or stop their growth.
Chemotherapy drugs come in various forms, including pills, capsules, tablets and liquids. Chemo can be given as an infusion through intravenous (IV) tubing directly into your blood or it can be applied topically as a cream, ointment or via other methods. The most common chemotherapy drugs used to treat mesothelioma are Adriamycin, Cisplatin and Taxol. The drug is often administered in combination with other treatments like radiation therapy.
Treatment methods – Radiation therapy
Radiation therapy is typically given as part of an active-treatment program with surgery and chemotherapy. Radiation can be used to shrink tumors that may have spread to other parts of your body, but it will not cure mesothelioma on its own. Radiation treatments are given in either 1-, 2- or 3-week sessions.
Your doctor will explain why he or she has chosen a certain number of treatments per week and how many weeks you’ll need to receive radiation. You might notice some side effects after each session, such as fatigue or nausea. These usually go away within 24 hours. If they don’t, let your doctor know right away so they can be treated promptly.
Mesothelioma specialists are experts in applying disciplines like oncology, radiology, pathology and surgery to treating mesothelioma. These specialists can do wonders when it comes to helping their patients achieve positive outcomes. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is important that you seek out these special doctors. In fact, they may be able to help your family with securing compensation related to workplace exposures.