Finding the Right Expert for Your Diagnosis

Only an experienced pleural mesothelioma specialist can properly diagnose and treat this rare disease. We work with the top doctors around the country and help patients find the best treatment team for their individual diagnosis.

Although pleural is the most common type of mesothelioma, it is still a rare cancer with about 2,000 to 3,000 people diagnosed in the United States each year. Sometimes it may seem as if doctors who specialize in treating this disease are as rare as the cancer itself, but finding a specialist should be your number one priority.

If you want to beat this cancer, a specialist and an expert team of health care professionals are the ones who are most qualified to treat you.

That's why we are here to help you find the specialist who fits your specific diagnosis. Our free Doctor Match program puts you in contact with the best doctors who can give you a fighting chance. We can even help you access funds to help you or your family cover the expenses associated with treatment, travel and accommodation.

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finding the right doctor

Why Do I Need a Specialist?

Finding a specialist is extremely important. Only experienced doctors who have diagnosed and treated this disease before can offer you the most promising and most accurate prognosis.


What to Consider When Choosing a Doctor

Several factors can help you choose the right doctor to oversee your care. Consider the following factors before making a final decision:

Experience

First and foremost, your doctor should have years of experience treating pleural mesothelioma. Depending upon what stage you are diagnosed at, you’ll want to select doctors who specialize in the kind of treatment you’ll benefit from the most. For example, not everyone is diagnosed early enough to qualify for surgery, but those who do qualify should select a mesothelioma doctor who specializes in thoracic surgery. If you don’t qualify for surgery, select oncologists who specialize in chemotherapy or radiation therapy for pleural mesothelioma.

Compassion and Understanding

The connection and relationship you develop with your doctor is important. Find a doctor who makes you feel comfortable, and who is accessible and open to discussions about your goals and concerns. Ask yourself if you feel like you can communicate clearly with the doctor you are considering. If you respect the doctor, feel comfortable around them and believe they will communicate well with you, you’ve found a good contender.

Location

Depending on where you live, you may have to travel to see the specialist with whom you feel the most comfortable. This can be expensive, but some specialty centers help with transportation and lodging costs if you have to travel a considerable distance. Travel grants are also available and our patient advocates can help you apply. Traveling for treatment may sound stressful, but it could help you access top-notch care and the latest advancements in treatment.

Quality of Cancer Center

Sometimes doctors are only as good as the tools at their disposal. Make sure to ask your doctor how their cancer center compares to others in the country. This is especially important if you are a candidate for surgery because you want the latest technology being used by your surgical team. The best cancer centers for pleural mesothelioma have doctors who specialize in all forms of effective treatment for mesothelioma, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Insurance

You’ll probably want a doctor who is part of your health care plan, a preferred provider or at least a doctor who accepts your insurance. It is no surprise that medical bills can add up, even with an in-network doctor. Insurance companies are notorious for denying coverage, but you can appeal denied claims and learn more about financial assistance options. Our patient advocates can help answer insurance questions and provide information on financial assistance.

Pleural Mesothelioma Doctors

Getting Patients to Top Doctors

One of the first steps to improving your prognosis is finding a specialist who is familiar with your specific diagnosis. Our team of dedicated patient advocates will help match you to a doctor based on your diagnosis and location.

Doctor Questions

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Before choosing a cancer doctor and treatment center, ask your doctor some basic questions to make sure you can get the help you need:

  • How much experience do you have treating pleural mesothelioma?
  • How many years have you worked in the field?
  • What cancer centers have you worked for?
  • Do you have experience treating my specific subtype (cell type) of mesothelioma?
  • Does this facility offer access to clinical trials?
  • What treatments do you usually offer for this cancer?
  • What treatments do you recommend for me?
  • Do the radiologists, pathologists and other cancer doctors you work alongside also have experience treating mesothelioma?
  • Can you help me find alternative and supplemental therapies beyond the standard care?
  • Can you tell me the stage of my tumor and estimate my life expectancy?
  • Do I have to accept all treatment recommendations?
  • How will the suggested treatment plan help me? How will it affect my lifestyle?

Types of Specialists

With pleural mesothelioma, treatment will likely involve several different doctors from various specialties, particularly with specialized care that includes a multimodal approach. It is important to know and understand the different types of specialists who will be overseeing your care.

Oncology is the term used to refer to the medicine of cancer care. Most of the doctors who treat pleural mesothelioma are oncologists who elect a subspecialty, such as surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Some of the doctors you can expect to see include:

Medical Oncologists

A medical oncologist specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer. These doctors can guide you through treatment, and also offer chemotherapy to slow the growth and spread of your cancer. Your medical oncologist may offer treatments, make referrals to other doctors, arrange tests, communicate with surgeons and radiologists, and manage your case. They will prescribe chemotherapy regimens, selecting which drugs will work best for you, such as the combination of pemetrexed and cisplatin. Medical oncologists may also oversee the use of targeted therapies, such as immunotherapy drugs, and refer you to a palliative care doctor for pain medication.

Surgical Oncologist

Surgical oncologists perform all surgeries, whether they aim to cure the disease or just make symptoms more manageable. Several of the most effective surgical procedures for this disease are extensive and complicated. Make sure your surgeon has the experience to treat you safely and effectively. Ask how many times they’ve performed the surgery you’ve been recommended to undergo.

Radiation Oncologists

Radiation oncologists specialize in the use of radiation therapy to treat cancer. When someone is diagnosed with a later stage of this disease, surgery may not be an option and ionizing radiation in combination with chemotherapy may be the most effective treatment plan. The radiation oncologist calculates radiation dosages and controls the ionizing process during the treatment, which aims to relieve symptoms and extend survival by shrinking tumors or slowing their growth.


Mesothelioma: A Truly Rare Cancer

Pleural mesothelioma accounts for the majority of all mesothelioma cases, but it’s not as common as any of the most frequently diagnosed cancers in the United States. In fact, the numbers are hardly comparable.

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Overall Cancer Diagnosis

About 1.6 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer annually. Out of all of these cases, about 235,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer; 233,000 are diagnosed with prostate cancer; and 224,000 are diagnosed with lung cancer.

Mesothelioma Diagnosis

Approximately 2,000-3,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma — and about 75 percent of those cases affect the pleura.

Women's vs Men's Diagnosis

Statistics show women with pleural mesothelioma have a better prognosis than men because they respond to treatment better. A review of data from the National Cancer Institute shows that 13.4 percent of women with pleural mesothelioma survive for five years, compared with only 4.5 percent of men.


Top Doctors

We have built relationships with many of the leading pleural mesothelioma specialists in the country to give you access to the best care available. Several specialists are located in major metropolitan areas of the Northeast United States, including Boston, Philadelphia and New York. Others are scattered across the country, too.

The top pleural mesothelioma specialists include:

Boston

Abraham Lebenthal M.D.

Abraham Lebenthal, M.D.
Surgeon, Boston VA Healthcare

Dr. Lebenthal is Israeli-board certified in general surgery and thoracic surgery. He is a veteran of the Israeli Army, where he served as a physician and commanded an infantry platoon. He advocates minimally invasive surgery to speed up the recovery time for patients, as well as tailored treatment options for each patient.

Houston

David Sugarbaker M.D.

David Sugarbaker, M.D.
Surgeon, Baylor College of Medicine

Dr. David Sugarbaker has made momentous strides for pleural mesothelioma. In fact, he is often referred to as “Mr. Mesothelioma.” Sugarbaker will soon lead the upcoming Lung Institute at Baylor College of Medicine, where he will oversee clinical and translational research that focuses on getting new treatments to patients faster.

While he was chief of the division of thoracic surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, he most notably developed the extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP), an aggressive surgery technique to remove mesothelioma tumors from the chest.

He pioneered the multimodal approach, a treatment plan that uses two or more treatment options for maximum effectiveness. He also identified gene ratios in mesothelioma tumors in an effort to find a treatment plan to cure this disease.

David Rice M.D.

David Rice, M.D.
Surgeon , MD Anderson Cancer Center

Dr. Rice is associate professor of surgery at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, where he specializes in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery. He is well known for his research on mesothelioma surgery. His research has helped define the staging and diagnosing procedures before surgery, and he is currently involved in a program aiming to improve the current staging system.

Pittsburgh

Rodney Landreneau M.D.

Rodney Landreneau, M.D.
Director, Esophageal and Lung Institute at Allegheny General Hospital

As director of the Esophageal and Lung Institute at Allegheny General Hospital, Dr. Landreneau is working to advance surgical practices of pleural mesothelioma. Prior to moving to Allegheny, Landreneau served as director and chief of general thoracic surgery at the Ochsner Cancer Institute in New Orleans.

He is a thoracic surgeon who specializes in pleural mesothelioma and lung cancer. He spent more than 20 years performing minimally invasive and video-assisted surgery while serving as director of the Lung Cancer Program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

New York

Daniel Sterman M.D.

Daniel Sterman, M.D.
Director, Multidisciplinary Pulmonary Oncology Program at NYU Langone Medical Center

Dr. Sterman joined the Multidisciplinary Pulmonary Oncology Program at NYU in January 2015. Previously, he worked at the University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Cancer Center for 20 years.

One of his interests is genetic immunotherapy, an innovative treatment gaining popularity among specialists who treat pleural mesothelioma patients.

Raja Flores M.D.

Raja Flores, M.D.
Surgeon, Mount Sinai Hospital

Dr. Flores is chief of thoracic surgery at the Mount Sinai Hospital, where he specializes in surgical procedures and techniques for mesothelioma.

His concerns about the risks and loss of quality of life after removing an entire lung led to his research and findings that this cancer can be effectively treated with partial removal of the pleural membrane instead of removing an entire lung.

Harvey Pass M.D.

Harvey Pass, M.D.
Surgeon, NYU Langone Medical Center

Dr. Pass is director of thoracic surgery at the NYU Langone Medical Center, where he leads the Early Detection Research Network Biomarker Discovery Laboratory for Mesothelioma and oversees the Mesothelioma Pathogenesis Program Project.

He previously completed a fellowship at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), where he was among the first to study the effectiveness of photodynamic therapy for treatment of pleural mesothelioma in phase I, II and III clinical trials. He has also researched post-surgery adjuvant immunochemotherapy.

Pass was responsible for a study that identified high levels of the protein osteopontin in pleural mesothelioma patients, which has helped physicians screen patients with past asbestos exposure, among other noteworthy contributions.

Los Angeles

Jay M. Lee M.D.

Jay M. Lee, M.D.
Director, Thoracic Oncology Program at UCLA Medical Center

Dr. Lee is an accomplished surgeon who has pioneered new treatment methods, as well as directed multiple clinical trials and focused on gene therapy and immunotherapy.

In addition to his work at UCLA, Lee also practices at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center in Los Angeles.

Tampa

Jacques Fontaine M.D.

Jacques Fontaine, M.D.
Surgeon, Moffitt Cancer Center

Dr. Fontaine is lead thoracic surgeon at the Moffitt Cancer Center. He has extensive experience treating pleural mesothelioma and strongly believes in collaborating with other health care professionals to give patients the best possible care. He also is an advocate for the multimodal approach to therapy.

Lary A. Robinson M.D.

Lary A. Robinson M.D.
Surgeon, Moffitt Cancer Center

Dr. Robinson is director of the Division of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery at the Moffitt Cancer Center. He is most known for his expertise in aggressive surgeries for this disease. Robinson is the author or co-author of more than 150 medical publications. He also is involved in three clinical lung cancer and mesothelioma research programs.

Celebration

Farid Gharagozloo M.D.

Farid Gharagozloo, M.D.
Director, Cardiothoracic Surgery at Florida Hospital Celebration Health

Dr. Gharagozloo joined Florida Hospital Celebration Health in 2015. His vast experience in robotic surgery will help the hospital improve its treatment of pleural mesothelioma patients. In fact, Gharagozloo was the first doctor to use robotic surgery to perform an extrapleural pneumonectomy on a mesothelioma patient.

Before arriving at Celebration, Gharagozloo worked at the Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson. He also served as the director of the Washington Institute of Thoracic Cardiovascular Surgery.

Patient Advocate

Need help choosing a doctor that is right for you?

Our team of Patients Advocates can provide you with free guidance throughout the process. Whether it's helping you select a specialist or determining the best treatment center, we are here to help.

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