If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, you know there are lots of important decisions that lie ahead, but among the most important is where to receive cancer treatment (Mesothelioma Treatment Centers).

Pleural mesothelioma is a rare and complex cancer, and survival can depend on whether patients are treated at a cancer center that specializes in this disease. Patients need a doctor who has experience treating asbestos cancer in order to improve their prognosis.

“This isn’t lung cancer; you need an expert,” said Dr. Hedy Kindler, director of the mesothelioma program at the University of Chicago Medical Center. “It’s important to have people who are comfortable with the disease.”

Cancer centers that can treat mesothelioma are spread across the country, although some patients may need to travel long distances to receive treatment. One major advantage of a cancer center with expertise in mesothelioma is the personalized approach to treatment you will receive. Treatment is often part of a multimodal approach that includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Typically, the sooner it can begin, the better you will respond.

“That’s where these patients need to be. We need to focus on getting them to the specialty centers,” Dr. Joseph Friedberg, chief of thoracic surgery at the Abramson Cancer Center in Philadelphia, said during a 2013 gathering of medical professionals and mesothelioma patients.

“It’s such a rare disease that there aren’t a lot of pockets of expertise.” Patients who receive treatment at a specialty center may be able to extend their lives considerably. There are some patients who live years after their diagnosis.

“I still am amazed at the number of people who do not get referred to a specialty center,” said Dr. Richard Alexander, a surgeon at the Greenebaum Cancer Center at the University of Maryland. “Patients should take the initiative to find out where to go for experienced and expert advice.”

Treatment Centers for Veterans

Nearly 30 percent of pleural mesothelioma cases involve veterans. This is because veterans were heavily exposed to asbestos on ships, armored vehicles, sleeping quarters and military bases while on duty – and when they left the military, they were exposed again because they worked in jobs similar to their service ratings.

With access to the VA health care system, veterans can seek treatment anywhere in the country. The Boston VA Healthcare System, for example, is affiliated with nearby Brigham and Women’s Hospital, one of the leaders in mesothelioma treatment. Experienced and nationally renowned surgeon Dr. Abraham Lebenthal works at both facilities and specializes in treating mesothelioma.

The VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System has renowned thoracic surgeon Dr. Robert Cameron, a pioneer in mesothelioma treatment who also works with the UCLA Medical Center or Mesothelioma Treatment Centers.

Veterans are eligible for VA benefits if they received a discharge or release under any condition, except dishonorable.

Other eligibility requirements include:

  • Length of service
  • Income level
  • Number of dependents
  • Proof of asbestos-related disease
  • Availability of current VA resources

Benefits of seeking treatment at a VA center include disability compensation, Dependants and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and assistance with filing a hassle-free claim with the VA.

If you are a veteran and have questions about mesothelioma treatment centers or VA benefits, the Pleural Mesothelioma Center’s Veterans Department can help.

How to Find a Specialist

Because pleural mesothelioma is rare — roughly 2,500 people are diagnosed annually in the United States — many cancer centers do not have mesothelioma specialists on staff. The key is finding a cancer center with surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, pulmonologists and nurses who all are experienced with treating pleural mesothelioma.

Picking the right center can be tricky because there is so much to consider, including location, an ability to travel, a preferred strategy of treatment, goals and expectations. Patients and their families need to do their homework to find the right fit.

Top Pleural Mesothelioma Cancer Centers

Although many of the best centers for pleural mesothelioma are clustered in the Northeast, there are other notable cancer centers scattered throughout the country.

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