Four questions mesothelioma patients should ask themselves when deciding if a doctor is the best fit for them.

A mesothelioma diagnosis is devastating news.

When you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, the impact it has extends beyond just the physical aspect of your life. It also impacts the emotional and spiritual self. As a result, patients and their caregivers have to be mentally as well as physically prepared to fight this horrific disease.

This preparedness begins with ensuring the accurate diagnosis of the cancer and establishing the best treatment plan for your specific situation. Equally important is to consider the kind of relationship you have with all of your doctors – from your treating physician to your oncologist to maybe even your nutritionist.

For more than 15 years, I have been privileged to help patients diagnosed with mesothelioma and their families through my role as Director of the Asbestos Medical Department at Simmons Hanly Conroy. In addition to overseeing the medical aspect of their legal cases, I also help patients navigate the health care system.

While not as common as it used to be, I regularly hear stories from mesothelioma patients recounting that, when they were first diagnosed, their general practitioner essentially ‘washed their hands of them.’ Patients were given the straight, hard facts. That they had six months to live and they should go home and get their affairs in order.

shutterstock_382703092This is where that mental toughness comes in. It’s time to secure a second opinion from a mesothelioma specialist. Mesothelioma is a rare cancer caused by asbestos. Currently there is no known cure, but in my 15 years of working in this specialized medical area, mesothelioma treatment options continue to improve and evolve as mesothelioma research continues. Millions of dollars’ worth of mesothelioma research is on-going at select university-affiliated medical programs throughout the United States thanks to the private support of charities like the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.

It is uncommon for a family doctor to be familiar with the most current treatment options for mesothelioma. A specialist, however, will be knowledgeable about the various treatment options, including possible clinical trials.

As Mary Jane, a mesothelioma survivor of 13 years, recommends to those newly diagnosed in her client profile video, “If you don’t like the doctor, go find another one and keep going until you find one you do.”

When choosing a doctor who will guide you in your fight against mesothelioma – and really any kind of cancer fight – you want them to be direct and honest, but also compassionate. The best primary care physicians understand that conventional medicine is not the only thing a doctor offers their patients. Hope, compassion and respect can make a huge difference in the emotional and spiritual aspects of a fight against mesothelioma.

Some questions to ask yourself when evaluating if a doctor is right for you could be:

  1. Did they allow me to ask questions and listen to my concerns?
  2. Did they make everything easy for me to understand?
  3. Did they offer other treatment options and ask about my preferences?
  4. Did they treat me with respect?

In order for you to better understand mesothelioma and the treatment options available to you, it is important to find a physician who will allow plenty of time for questions during your visits. It is a good sign if you leave your appointment feeling as if your questions were greeted with compassion and understanding of the mental anguish you and your family are currently experiencing.

You want to find a doctor who can offer you that glimmer of hope you are looking for by educating you about the various treatment choices available to you and your family. He ensures you are part of the decision making process and doesn’t pick the treatment for you. Instead, the doctor provides various recommendations and educates you about the benefits and draw backs of each plan tailored to your specific situation. For example, she might explain how your age or your level of fitness or location of the mesothelioma tumor influences why she recommends a specific or varied treatment approach.

Something for caregivers to be aware of is that having a good relationship with treating physicians, can also increase the chances a patient will follow the treatment protocol recommended. When a patient is confident with their doctor, the likelihood of them feeling comfortable enough to share their concerns or any adverse side effects about the treatment plan is greater, therefore increasing the chances that necessary adjustments can be made to the plan. This, in turn, ensures patients receive the best care possible by improving the quality of their lives and their chances of survival.

Finally, when choosing the right mesothelioma doctor for you, it’s also worthwhile to consider everything I’ve mentioned above in regard to their staff. Many patients have often told me stories about the nurse or physician’s assistant whose work made a difference in the course of their treatment. After all, they also play a big role in your fight against mesothelioma.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed and are currently undergoing treatment, please consider sharing below in the comments about your own experiences and suggestions for choosing a mesothelioma doctor.