At a recent International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma, three doctors representing some of the biggest organizations behind mesothelioma treatment discussed what patients should look for to determine a truly outstanding mesothelioma treatment center.
The quality of the center you choose for your care may determine your treatment options, your prognosis, and overall, your quality of life.
The Importance of Seeking Treatment from Mesothelioma Cancer Centers
There are hundreds of high-quality cancer centers throughout the United States, but those suffering from mesothelioma should specifically seek treatment at a mesothelioma cancer center — a full-service health care facility dedicated to treating mesothelioma.
Seeking treatment from mesothelioma treatment centers is beneficial because:
- It’s hard to diagnose mesothelioma: The symptoms and even appearance of mesothelioma can resemble other health problems such as the flu, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or even other forms of cancer. For this reason, it’s important to have a mesothelioma specialist confirm your diagnosis.
- Treating mesothelioma requires specialized experience: Mesothelioma is an incredibly aggressive form of cancer that can claim patient lives in less than one year. Many of the most effective treatments for prolonging the lives of mesothelioma patients involve complex surgeries specific to the cancer that other oncologists may not know how to perform.
- Specialized care can extend your life: Through specialized diagnosis and treatment, getting treatment at a mesothelioma cancer center could extend your life for several months or even years.
A Top Mesothelioma Center Is a Team — Not Just One Specialist
A mesothelioma treatment center should have more than one specialist doctor — in fact, the entire mesothelioma treatment team should have experience with mesothelioma patients.
Dr. Raphael Bueno, Chief of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, stresses the importance of this:
“It’s not just a practice of one surgeon, medical oncologist, or radiation oncologist. It’s a program where you have multiple healthcare workers, multiple physicians who do multiple facets of the care, and they’re committed to working on that.”
While many people focus solely on finding a top mesothelioma doctor, the contributions and expertise of the entire medical team may be just as vital to your longevity and well-being.
According to the doctors at one International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma panel, other traits also flag a mesothelioma treatment center as top-quality.
When choosing a mesothelioma treatment center, look for these four expert-recommended traits.
1. Top Mesothelioma Cancer Centers Are Dedicated to Treating Mesothelioma
Any quality mesothelioma cancer center should have a clear track record of treating not just cancer patients, but, specifically, mesothelioma cancer patients.
Mesothelioma is a complex disease to manage and treat. Therefore, the more patients a mesothelioma center treats, the better the center often is.
Dr. Christine Alewine of the National Cancer Institute noted, “I really think that the number of patients seen by a center is very important… When a center sees a large number of patients with a particular disease, even if it’s coming through one clinic, all the other staff in that center are going to end up with more experience with that disease.”
This added experience is crucial, especially with diseases like mesothelioma.
Dr. James Pingpank of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center said, “I think that when you’re dealing with rare diseases, the ability to know when to do what and anticipate problems only comes with experience.”
2. Top Centers Have Mesothelioma Clinical Trials
In order to sort out whether or not a mesothelioma treatment center is a top facility, Dr. Bueno recommends seeing “what kind of clinical trials might be available.”
A well-funded center dedicated to the specific treatment of mesothelioma often provides clinical trials.
Having mesothelioma clinical trials is also a good sign that the center has treated many mesothelioma patients.
The benefits of a mesothelioma treatment center with clinical trials include:
- You have access to specialists with cutting edge treatment methods.
- You can try out emerging treatment methods or participate in a clinical trial if traditional treatments are unavailable to you or aren’t as effective as you had hoped.
- You can enjoy a larger mesothelioma treatment community providing support.
3. A Top Treatment Center Provides for Patients Emotionally
Many mesothelioma patients and their families forget to take emotional health into account, only to realize how important it is when it’s missing from their care.
According to Dr. Bueno, “I think it’s important for patients to connect with other people in various parts of health care and other patients and caregivers to understand that they’re not alone. And that’s the importance of a specialized center.”
Mental health matters for your quality of life and prognosis, especially considering the fact that you may be visiting the center for regular treatment and recovery over several years.
Dealing with mesothelioma can be very trying for patients and their families — and patients and loved ones alike need support.
Dr. Robert Taub of Columbia University spoke passionately about the need for physicians to listen to their patients during a presentation on treatment for advanced peritoneal mesothelioma:
“Ask your doctor about expected benefits, possible risks, and quality of life during treatment. Ask to speak with other comparable patients whom that doctor has treated. If a doctor is too busy to answer your questions, he should be turned out of office.”
Medical professionals and staff should always take the time to answer all of your questions and listen to your personal goals for treatment — such as living as long as possible and being more comfortable — so that you get the best outcome.
4. Top Cancer Centers Will Provide a Mesothelioma Treatment Community
A top treatment center will have the added benefit of a mesothelioma community.
According to Dr. Bueno, “The… thing that cannot be [overemphasized] is the importance of a patient coming to a center where they can meet other people who have mesothelioma, other people who have been treated for mesothelioma, and healthcare workers who have experience with mesothelioma because I find the vast majority of patients are completely isolated…”
The benefits of having a mesothelioma treatment community include:
- The comfort of knowing that others are going through what you’re going through
- Advice on dealing with the day-to-day struggles of living with mesothelioma
- A network of information on other specialists, clinical trials, resources, and more
Choose the Right Treatment Center for You
Top mesothelioma treatment centers should specialize in mesothelioma, hold clinical trials, provide emotional care, and be a place of community. However, other factors like cost and travel requirements matter when choosing a center.
Many mesothelioma treatment centers are high-quality facilities — but the best one for you will depend on your particular circumstances.
According to the panel experts at the International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma, treatment at all cancer centers is rapidly improving.
Dr. Alewine closed off the panel discussion, saying, “The pace of new therapies that are being discovered right now is so fast compared to any of the decades before … There’s a lot of excitement right now. There have been a lot of excellent developments that can hopefully be transferred into mesothelioma advantages for patients.”
As doctors and researchers at top cancer centers continue to improve treatments for mesothelioma and other cancers, more and more centers may become excellent options for your care.