Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that is best treated by specialized doctors. Many of these doctors have decades of experience in treating this rare form of cancer. It is important to get treated by a specialist because mesothelioma is very rare and can be challenging to treat. There are many mesothelioma specialists throughout the country who help veterans and non-veterans alike.
Finding The Mesothelioma Doctor For You
Because mesothelioma is such a rare type of cancer (accounting for just over a tenth of a percent of cancer diagnosis each year) only certain doctors specialize in treating it. Choosing the right doctor to work with is key to getting the treatments to extend your life.
To choose a mesothelioma doctor, you should match their specialty to your type of mesothelioma. Pleural mesothelioma and peritoneal mesothelioma are both treated differently, so it is important that you receive the right treatment for your diagnosis
It is also important to consider how you developed mesothelioma. If your mesothelioma was caused by asbestos exposure because of your time serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, then you have access to veteran-specific medical care through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
If your mesothelioma was not caused by your time serving in the military, you still have options. There are many mesothelioma doctors who work at private cancer centers all over the world.
Why Do I Need a Mesothelioma Doctor?
Because mesothelioma is such a rare type of cancer, general oncologists (cancer doctors) may not have the experience needed to properly treat you.
Mesothelioma takes 20-50 to develop and then becomes very aggressive throughout the body. Although there are many steps to getting a diagnosis, a general cancer doctor runs the risk of misdiagnosing you since the cancer is so rare.
This could be a fatal mistake. If you are misdiagnosed, you could potentially be treated for a different, less serious disease, which gives this aggressive cancer more time to spread.
Mesothelioma specialists regularly diagnose and treat mesothelioma. They also have access to revolutionary medical treatments and groundbreaking clinical trials can help improve your survival rate and quality of life.
By working with a mesothelioma doctor, patients can receive the most accurate treatment for their specific disease. Mesothelioma specialists work with multidisciplinary teams at public cancer centers and VA hospitals around the country.
Some mesothelioma doctors specialize in certain types of mesothelioma (usually pleural or peritoneal) which will afford you access to the most up-to-date treatment options, and clinical trials for your specific diagnosis.
Receive Specialized Treatment
Some doctors specialize in treating either pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma. Since these cancers develop in different areas, they require unique treatments.
Because pleural mesothelioma develops in the lungs, the treatments target the chest, lungs, and surrounding lung areas. Peritoneal mesothelioma develops in the abdomen, so there are surgeries and treatment options that target that area of the body.
For either type, surgery is the first step, and after that, doctors have different ideas on follow-up treatments. These treatments are as diverse as the doctors who administer them. Through years of study and innovation, doctors have amazing treatment options available to them that can be tailored to your specific treatment needs.
Access Clinical Trials
In some cases, you may be able to test new treatment methods through a clinical trial. Your mesothelioma doctor can help connect you to these trials, as they are usually only available through specialists.
Clinical trials can give you access to treatments that are unavailable to the general public. Participating in a clinical trial may even mean you receive treatment that prolongs your life.
How to Choose a Mesothelioma Doctor
When choosing a mesothelioma doctor it is important to do research. Find out everything you can about the doctor you want to see.
You’ll want to make an appointment for a consultation with a specialist and ask some of the following questions:
- Is the doctor covered by my insurance plan?
- Does this doctor collaborate with me on specific options for treatment?
- Has the doctor been practicing for a long time in the area of Mesothelioma Treatment?
- Does the doctor understand my need to make decisions and will he address all of my concerns?
- Does the doctor have a clear and transparent way of communicating?
- Can I easily travel to see this doctor?
- What kinds of treatments for mesothelioma does this doctor offer?
- Does the doctor treat my sub-type of mesothelioma?
- Does the doctor have treatments for widespread mesothelioma?
- Will the doctor allow me access to a clinical trial?
You should feel satisfied that the doctor you are choosing is skilled and knowledgeable about your subtype of mesothelioma. Then you can confidently make arrangements to begin treatment.
Best Mesothelioma Doctors for Veterans
Each of the mesothelioma doctors below carries a specialty in mesothelioma. They practice in various parts of the country and are experts in either pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma. They have conducted groundbreaking research and have treated hundreds of patients.
The following mesothelioma doctors are leaders in their field:
Robert B. Cameron, M.D. – Pleural Mesothelioma
Dr. Cameron is the director of the mesothelioma program at the David Geffen School of Medicine in Los Angeles. He is also the chief thoracic surgeon at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center, where veterans can go for mesothelioma treatment.
Dr. Cameron is also the current director of thoracic surgery at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and a medical advisor at the Pacific Mesothelioma Center.
Because Dr. Cameron works at a VA Hospital, he works specifically with veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. Through the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration Medical Center, veterans would have access to the special benefits they are offered. This is important for veterans to consider, as these benefits can greatly alleviate some of the financial burdens they may feel.
He treats mesothelioma patients through pleurectomy with decortication (P/D) surgery — a less invasive surgery that removes only the mesothelioma cancer and spares the lungs.
Dr. Cameron feels a P/D can remove mesothelioma tumors just as effectively as an EPP. He also prefers the P/D because it spares the lung, limiting the risk of other serious complications.
Dr. Cameron uses multimodal treatment to help his patients live longer after diagnosis.
- Pleurectomy with decortication
- Radiation therapy
- Long-term maintenance therapy with immunotherapy (a specialty of Dr. Cameron’s treatment)
The first thing you should do when you’ve been diagnosed with [mesothelioma] is to try and find a center of excellence in terms of treatment.
— Dr. Robert Cameron
The Mesothelioma Veterans Center has no affiliation with and is not endorsed or sponsored by Dr. Robert B. Cameron. The contact information above is listed for informational purposes only. You have the right to contact Dr. Cameron directly.
David J. Sugarbaker, M.D. – Pleural Mesothelioma (1953-2018)
Until his passing in August 2018, Dr. David Sugarbaker was world-renowned for his pleural mesothelioma treatments. He received most of his initial training at Cornell University Medical College, and then went on to participate in several surgical residency programs after graduation. He then trained at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Toronto General Hospital.
Dr. Sugarbaker was incredibly focused on “trimodal therapy,” or treatment with a three-pronged approach.
Trimodal therapy involves:
- Performing aggressive surgery to remove all signs of cancer
- Using chemotherapy to kill cells that were not removed in surgery
- Applying radiation to the chest
Dr. Sugarbaker perfected the extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) — a surgery that removes the diseased lung, the lining around the heart and lungs, and part of the diaphragm. All nearby lymph nodes are also removed during this procedure. This procedure has been very successful in extending the lives of pleural mesothelioma patients.
Dr. Sugarbaker founded the International Mesothelioma Program (IMP) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, which spearheaded mesothelioma treatment and research. Then, in 2015, Dr. Sugarbaker was the head of the Lung Institute at Baylor College of Medicine. This became the first center in Texas that could specifically treat lung issues.
The treatment of patients with mesothelioma really is a team effort. One of the most important things we that can do within the Mesothelioma Treatment center is to provide hope for patients and their families that their treatment here will result in longer-term survival.
— Dr. David Sugarbaker
Abraham (Avi) Lebenthal, M.D. – Pleural Mesothelioma
Dr. Avi Lebenthal, a veteran of the Israeli army, is a thoracic surgeon and pleural mesothelioma specialist. He treats pleural mesothelioma patients at the Boston VA Health Care Center and at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Because Dr. Lebenthal works at a VA hospital and a public cancer center, he has seen veterans and non-veterans.
Dr. Lebenthal did his fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he currently practices. He also conducts clinical trials and uses the latest treatments. His specialty is minimally invasive surgery, which is less invasive and has a shorter recovery time for his patients.
Dr. Lebenthal uses three surgeries to treat his patients:
- Pleurectomy with decortication
- Extrapleural Pneumonectomy (EPP)
- Video-Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS)
He also treats patients with a procedure called multimodal treatment. This means a combination of radiation, chemotherapy, and/or surgery. While there are several ways to combine these treatments, almost all mesothelioma specialists agree that multimodal treatment is the best way to extend life expectancy.
Dr. Lebenthal is an optimist when it comes to survival for his mesothelioma patients.
When planned and executed precisely, the impossible becomes possible.
— Dr. Avi Lebenthal
Paul Sugarbaker, M.D. – Peritoneal Mesothelioma
Dr. Paul Sugarbaker practices at the Washington Cancer Institute in Washington, D.C. He is a specialist in peritoneal mesothelioma as well as other types of abdominal and gastrointestinal cancer.
Because this type of cancer is so rare, it is even more important to find a specialist skilled in treating it, and Dr. Sugarbaker is one of the premier specialists in peritoneal mesothelioma.
With 30 years of experience under his belt, Dr. Sugarbaker is one of the founding members of the International Society of Regional Cancer Therapy and was the founder of the Foundation for Applied Research for Gastrointestinal Oncology. This has allowed him to be at the forefront of current research.
Dr. Paul Sugarbaker invented a treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma called cytoreduction with HIPEC. Also known as “the Sugarbaker procedure,” this multimodal treatment combines surgery (cytoreduction) and heated chemotherapy.
Beginning with cytoreduction, the surgery to remove all visible tumors, this aggressive method then requires the heated chemotherapy be applied directly to the peritoneal space. After being applied to the abdomen for 90 minutes, the HIPEC has been proven to kill almost all of the remaining cancer cells.
This revolutionary surgery has been proven to extend the life of the patients who receive it anywhere from two and a half to seven years.
If we can recognize this [peritoneal mesothelioma] early, and apply the definitive treatment, […] the outcome is extremely good; perhaps 75% of people alive and well and disease-free at 5 years.
— Dr. Paul Sugarbaker, 2009
Mesothelioma cancer centers have doctors who specialize in different ways to treat mesothelioma. The team often consists of oncologists, surgeons, and radiologists. Mesothelioma cancer centers are also the best way to take advantage of clinical trials. Our Free Packet covers doctors who specialize in treating the different types of mesothelioma.
Becoming a Mesothelioma Survivor
By working with mesothelioma doctors, a patient’s prognosis may improve significantly. In some cases, patients have lived several years past their expected lifespans with no signs of disease. These people are considered mesothelioma survivors.
Dr. Cameron and Dr. Sugarbaker both have several patients who are alive more than 6 years after their diagnosis. Some people are even living beyond 10 years with no signs of mesothelioma. This is because of their groundbreaking surgeries along with chemotherapy and radiation.
Thanks to mesothelioma specialists, some patients are alive years after their diagnosis. Patients nowadays are receiving much better prognosis than years ago thanks to new treatment options, especially surgeries.
While long-term survival is possible, there is always a chance the disease could come back. This is because there is no cure for mesothelioma.
However, working with a mesothelioma specialist is still the best way for patients to extend their lifespan.
Improve Your Prognosis With a Specialist
Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive form of cancer, and it also has no cure. However, by working with top mesothelioma doctors, your chances of living longer will increase.
There are doctors all over the U.S. that specialize in diagnosing and treating mesothelioma. These doctors stand apart from general cancer doctors because they know how to specifically help those affected by this rare form of cancer.
Veterans affected by mesothelioma can work with VA-affiliated mesothelioma experts like Dr. Cameron and Dr. Lebenthal, and there are several other non-VA doctors available as well.
To receive treatment from VA mesothelioma doctors, veterans need to file for VA benefits. Our claims agents can help veterans file for these benefits, and also help them learn about other forms of compensation that are available. To learn more, call us today or fill out our VA benefits form.