Mesothelioma is rare cancer that requires experts — lots of experts — to treat you properly. Your treatment team should include various cancer experts, social workers, mental health professionals, and more.
A patient with mesothelioma needs different types of care for different kinds of professionals. Not only will the patient require a doctor who is experienced in treating this rare cancer, but a surgeon as well.
Mesothelioma affects the entire body, and emotions and mental health too. The cost of treatment can seem outrageous, and the patient may want to file a lawsuit if the cause of the mesothelioma is work-related asbestos exposure. The patient will need a lot of help. And those helpers are out there.
Mesothelioma: Major Team Players
To treat this condition, there are a few medical experts that must be included on the treatment team. “We generally will have patients be treated by a multidisciplinary team that will include a surgeon, a medical oncologist, and a radiation oncologist,” says David Rice, MD, associate professor and director of the mesothelioma program at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
Other experts and members of the treatment team may be involved depending on the needs of the individual.
Here are the roles the team members play:
- A medical oncologist. This doctor helps develop the treatment plan, according to your particular diagnosis. He’ll give you your checkups and schedule and review tests to see how well your treatment is working.
- Radiation oncologist. If you need radiation therapy, this is the doctor who will administer the radiation and work with you throughout that treatment process.
- If you need surgery to remove the tumor and other affected areas, this expert is the one who will do the job.
- Oncology nurse. If you need medications like chemotherapy, your oncology nurse will be the one taking care of you. Your nurse will be around to help you through your treatment and is a valuable member of your treatment team.
- Dietitian or nutritionist. If you are losing too much weight during your mesothelioma treatment, you may need to meet with a dietitian or nutritionist. These experts can help you find nutritious, high-calorie foods to add pounds and give you the strength and energy you need to keep fighting cancer.
- Mental health therapist. Mesothelioma is a difficult diagnosis to accept, particularly if you have a poor prognosis. You may feel afraid, confused, and angry, and it’s essential to deal with those feelings. If you need someone to talk to you about the emotional effects of your diagnosis, a psychiatrist, psychologist, or another therapist may be added to your treatment team to help you cope.
- Social worker. If you need help navigating your health insurance plan, paying for your treatment, finding a support group or couples counseling, or seeking a qualified lawyer for a lawsuit, a social worker can help. These experts are often employed by the hospital or cancer center and are there to help you through this ordeal.
- Rehabilitation therapist. If you need help recovering after surgery or other treatment, a physical, occupational, recreational, or respiratory therapist can help you improve and get you back to your daily activities.
- Home health aide. The surgeries for mesothelioma can be substantial, painful affairs. If you can’t manage on your own when you get home from the hospital, a home health aid can help with bathing, dressing, preparing meals, and tidying up your house.
Hospice care. This service is offered to mesothelioma patients who are only seeking palliative care, to relieve pain and discomfort, and who are no longer aggressively finding a cure for their mesothelioma. Hospice experts can also provide exceptional comfort and support to families during this difficult time.
Hospice care can be received at home or in the hospital.
When treating mesothelioma, don’t forget to take care of all of you. Don’t neglect your emotional needs, or physical needs like nutrition, home assistance, and rehabilitation.
Dealing with health insurance companies and lawyers is the last thing that you want to do when you should be focusing on your health. So know what help is available to you, and talk to your doctor or cancer center staff about who should be on your treatment team.