References for a Mesothelioma Specialist: A Changing Culture
Timing of diagnosis is vital in fighting the cancer known as mesothelioma. How important, however?
Well, the stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis has a significant impact on treatment options and therefore on survival. If a patient is diagnosed at stage 2 or 3, they may have mesothelioma surgery. If it’s stage 4, the only option is palliative chemotherapy.
For patients who first see their local oncologist for a diagnosis, getting a referral to a specialist quickly is critical. Most oncologists don’t know what mesothelioma looks like on scans or pathology reports.
They don’t know the specific biomarkers that set it apart from other cancers, like ovarian cancer or lung cancer. They also cannot perform surgery, and do not work in a hospital with a surgeon who can safely remove the narrow wall of the lungs or abdominal cavity.
That is why they must refer the patient to a specialist – and quickly.
Fewer delays in files sent to specialists
Many surgeons and specialists mention how many cases they see are in later stages, delayed by oncologists prescribing systemic therapy not knowing that there are other options.
Fortunately, this practice is changing.
“Many years ago they didn’t go through the process of getting a diagnosis. They are just getting palliative relief, ”said Dr Wickii Vigneswaran, director of thoracic surgery at Loyola University Health System in Chicago. “We still have a part of that philosophy that exists in the communities. I sometimes get stories from patients about their experiences with local doctors.
More and more doctors are referring their patients to specialized cancer centers, where surgeons have seen many cases of mesothelioma. Some surgeons are trained for malignant abdominal tumors, such as peritoneal mesothelioma. Others are thoracic surgical oncologists, focusing on pleural mesothelioma.
Importance of Mesothelioma Patient Advocacy Websites
Another way to bring patients to cancer specialists is through patient support organizations, such as Mesothelioma Guide.
“A lot of patients come through patient support organizations and patient support groups,” said Dr Vigneswaran. “Patients and families can shop from their living room to see what’s possible and available. So, they can investigate who can treat this disease. Families often lead care.
These websites, like ours, allow patients to request a specialist. Dr Vigneswaran even noted how “the internet has changed everything” in this regard. It is also a positive step, as patients have information and knowledge when they meet with their doctor or local oncologist.
Dr Mecker Moller, a peritoneal mesothelioma specialist at the University of Miami’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, said the help is defeating a culture of slow referrals and misinformation about mesothelioma.
“This is why what you do is so precious,” she said. “You are providing patients with the right data and the people involved in the treatment. There is so much misinformation in the community.
She said there needs to be better communication and collaboration between specialists and other oncologists. Resources for patients are a gap that needs to be filled in hospitals.
“They come to you with hope,” Dr. Moller said. “… Some of them are too beyond surgery, even a clinical trial.” “
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