There are four things to focus on when choosing a mesothelioma doctor: knowledge, expertise, availability, and associations.
A person diagnosed with mesothelioma will most likely learn about their disease from either their general practitioner or from an oncologist. Within the field of oncology, however, there are many different types of specialties. The oncologist or other physician who diagnoses the patient with mesothelioma may not be familiar enough with the disease to offer the most effective treatment. It is important, especially with a disease that is rare, to find a doctor who specializes in the illness.
Question potential physicians about their educational background, recently published works, and certifications. If the oncologist has published a paper on mesothelioma, find out if it was in a peer-reviewed medical journal, which would be an excellent indication of his or her acceptance as an authority in the field.
While a formal knowledge base and academic credentials are an excellent starting place, it is equally important to learn more about the doctor’s hands-on experience with other mesothelioma patients. Request statistics on the number of mesothelioma patients the doctor has treated over the course of his career, as well as the statistics regarding the mortality of those patients. While it is true that even the most accomplished specialist had their first patient at one time, it is generally a better idea to look for a doctor who has already worked with a number of other mesothelioma patients. If you are one of the first mesothelioma patients the doctor has treated, find out if the doctor worked with any mesothelioma patients as a student or during his residency.
The primary oncologist who will be treating you will become almost like a member of the family. You need to feel comfortable talking to him or her, and the mesothelioma doctor needs to meet your availability expectations. Decide what level of availability you are comfortable with, and then base your questions on those preferences. Do you want a mesothelioma doctor that is available after hours for concerns by phone, or is email acceptable? Is there a help line staffed by a nurse, or will you be routed to a messaging service? How quickly can you make an appointment if your condition deteriorates?
There are several groups your mesothelioma doctor may be a member of. While none is a guarantee that the physician will be the best for you, membership is a good indicator. The American College of Surgeons, the American Medical Association, and the American Society of Clinical Oncology are all excellent organizations, although there are many other groups to which your physician may belong.
Finding out you have mesothelioma is difficult. Finding the right physician can help ease much of your fear and frustration. It is important that your mesothelioma doctor is both qualified and a good fit for your personality and lifestyle. If you can make a personal connection, and feel safe with your doctor, the entire treatment process will be easier.