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Your Lung Disorders Medical Team

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Johns Hopkins professor Dr. Peter B. Terry talks about the team of doctors who will treat you if you have a serious lung disorder, such as lung cancer.

If you have a serious lung disorder, you may see several specialists during the course of your treatment. "My patients often ask why they are seeing so many doctors,” says Peter B. Terry, M.D., author of the Johns Hopkins Lung Disorders White Paper. "A person with lung cancer, for example, may start with their internist, be referred to a pulmonologist, then to an oncologist, thoracic surgeon, radiologist and pathologist. These specialists all have important and distinct roles in the individual’s care.”

The following is a quick guide to specialists whom you may encounter if you have a lung disorder.

  • Internist -- Internists often serve as primary care doctors, performing regular checkups and treating routine illnesses. If you have a lung disorder, your internist may refer you to a specialist such as a pulmonologist or allergist/immunologist for specialized care.

  • Pulmonologist -- These are specialists who are trained in diseases and conditions of the lungs and airways, such as pneumonia, asthma, emphysema, tuberculosis,or complicated chest infections.

  • Allergist|Immunologist -- These types of doctors specialize in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the human immune system, including asthma; rhinitis (inflammation in the lining of the nose); eczema (skin inflammation); and adverse reactions to drugs, foods and insect stings.

  • Medical Oncologist -- Oncologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of lung and all types of cancers and tumors. They can order and administer chemotherapy for treating malignant cancers and consult with surgeons and radiologists on other cancer treatments.

  • Thoracic Surgeon -- These doctors provide surgical care of the lungs, coronary arteries, esophagus and chest wall. They can treat abnormalities of the trachea, the great vessels and the heart valves, as well as diseases of the diaphragm.

  • Radiologist -- These specialists use techniques such as x-rays, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT) scan, nuclear medicine and image-guided interventional procedures to visualize the body and its organs, aiding in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases.

  • Pathologist -- Pathology is a medical specialty focused on making a definitive diagnosis of various diseases, including cancer. Pathologists identify diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope and writing a report detailing the diagnosis, which helps the treating physician decide on a course of action.

Posted in Lung Disorders on April 19, 2007
Reviewed June 2011

Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Health After 50 Disclaimer

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