Straight Talk about Mesothelioma, a blog series created by Michael T. Milano, M.D., Ph.D., a radiation oncology specialist, as a resource for mesothelioma patients and their loved ones.

It is understandable that a patient, once diagnosed with mesothelioma, will have questions. The disease is rare, complex, and even the name is hard to pronounce. When it comes to helping a patient understand mesothelioma, doctors know that no question is too small or trivial. Here are answers to some of the most common questions asked:

Q: Should I get a second opinion?

A: Many people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma do choose to get a second opinion. In fact, many doctors and insurance companies recommend it. The benefits of a second opinion include:

  • Confirmation of the diagnosis
  • Increased comfort with the treatment decision
  • Potentially new options for how to treat the cancer

If you are unsure how to go about getting a second opinion, ask your doctor. He or she will understand your need to do this, and will likely even suggest a few specialists you
could see.

Q: Am I going to be in pain?

A: If the members of your medical team do their job right, any pain should be managed and controlled. While the oncologist’s primary aim is to treat the disease, they do not lose sight of a patient’s physical comfort. While undergoing treatment you may experience discomfort, but our goal is to keep pain at an absolute minimum.

Q: Is there anything I could have done to prevent this disease?

A: Mesothelioma occurs as a result of exposure to asbestos, and can take upwards of 50 years for symptoms to materialize. Most patients with asbestos-related diseases were exposed on the job site and were unaware of the dangers. Those in the construction, auto brake repair, roofing, and shipbuilding industries, as well as military personnel serving on U.S. Navy ships were at greater risk of being exposed to the deadly asbestos fibers. We know a lot more about the dangers of asbestos now than we did then.

Q: Is there any new research I should know about?

A: I tell patients that it is appropriate to be hopeful. Doctors and researchers are making tremendous progress not only in treating mesothelioma, but also in detecting it earlier. New drugs are being tested in clinical trials at this very moment, and new therapies involving combinations of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are being tested.

Next article in this series: “How Can Your Research Specifically Help Me and Other Mesothelioma Patients?”