About Dr. Fontaine
Dr. Jacques Fontaine is board certified by the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery. He currently practices Thoracic and GI Oncology at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. He was rated the top thoracic disease doctor in the Tampa Bay Area in 2021, 2019 and 2018 by Tampa Magazine.Make an Appointment
Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer diagnosed in an estimated 3,000 people in the U.S. annually. It starts typically in the pleura, which is the thin membrane surrounding the lungs. The condition also may present itself in the lining of the abdomen or heart.
It is caused almost exclusively by inhalation or ingestion of microscopic asbestos fibers — most often from occupational exposure to the toxic substance.
As a thoracic surgeon, Fontaine focuses on pleural mesothelioma, which is found in the lining of the lungs. Nearly 75 percent of all mesothelioma patients are diagnosed with the pleural form of the asbestos-caused cancer.
Early symptoms of mesothelioma are vague, often flu-like and mirror those of less serious illnesses. The latency period between exposure to asbestos and obvious symptoms is 20-50 years, which explains why the typical mesothelioma patient is older than 60. Because mesothelioma is rare and serious symptoms don’t show up immediately, the cancer often goes undetected until it has reached a later stage.
Early detection of mesothelioma continues to be one of the largest roadblocks on the road to a cure. Mesothelioma specialists, including Fontaine and his team in Tampa, Florida, urge anyone with a history of asbestos exposure to report any early warning signs and ask for a chest X-ray or CT Scan. Early symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
- Respiratory issues
- Chest pain
- Persistent dry cough
If you have a history of asbestos exposure, are suffering from the symptoms listed above and are located in the Tampa, Clearwater, Sarasota or St. Petersburg area, don’t hesitate to tell your doctor about these early warning signs. You can also contact Moffitt Cancer Center to find out whether a second opinion is needed.
There is no simple, clear path to a mesothelioma diagnosis. Doctors often misdiagnose it early in the process because it is rare and symptoms are consistent with other minor illnesses. The diagnosis often starts with a common chest X-ray that may raise concerns and lead to a variety of additional tests that may eliminate others potential issues. Various imaging scans, such as CT, MRI and PET, could be ordered. A tissue biopsy also will be needed for confirmation.
Moffitt’s team of Tampa oncologists can help patients determine what testing is necessary for an accurate diagnosis.
During the diagnostic process, a patient may see a variety of medical professionals, including:
- General practitioners
- Medical oncologists
- Thoracic surgeons
The multidisciplinary approach needed to diagnose and treat mesothelioma is why Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa created its Mesothelioma Research and Treatment Center in 2012.
Mesothelioma patients are living longer than ever before. Although there still is no definitive cure, new individualized care and medical advancements are greatly improving the life expectancy and prognosis for people diagnosed with this type of cancer.
There is hope on the horizon. Patients who can reach a mesothelioma specialist who knows the intricacies of the disease and the best way to treat it have the best chance of extending their survival and improving their quality of life. Seeing a specialist, such as Fontaine at the Moffitt Cancer Center, is imperative. While the types of treatment available will depend on the individual, diagnosis, stage and overall health of the patient, only a mesothelioma specialist will be aware of the latest treatment options and clinical research.
Moffitt Cancer Center has an entire team dedicated to treating mesothelioma. As a result, the Tampa Bay area has become a hub for new clinical trials and treatment innovations. Patients from the southeast corner of the United States finally have a mesothelioma specialty center they can trust.
Now, rather than traveling to Houston or Boston, mesothelioma patients can head south to Tampa for life-changing treatment options.
Most specialty centers, including Moffitt, rely on a multimodal approach to managing mesothelioma, but not many have an entire department dedicated to such a rare cancer. Because of this, Fontaine’s team at Moffitt can offer a variety of new and innovative treatment options. It may include:
One of the most aggressive treatment options for mesothelioma is surgery. This treatment option can offer a chance of long-term survival. These surgical procedures are typically only available to a small percentage of patients if the disease is in its early stages. A radical pleurectomy and an extrapleural pneumonectomy are life-changing surgeries available at Moffitt.
Fontaine, the leading thoracic surgeon at Moffitt’s Mesothelioma Research and Treatment Center, works with patients to ensure surgery is the best treatment option for their diagnosis and current condition. Patients can seek his expertise about robotic surgery because he is one of the few thoracic surgeons in the nation who specializes in robot-assisted thoracic surgery.
Given Fontaine’s reputation and success rate, many patients will travel to Tampa from surrounding areas such as Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Ft. Myers, Vero Beach and other nearby cities. If a patient travels for treatment, Moffitt Cancer Center can make travel and lodging arrangements.
There are chemotherapy combinations today that can shrink tumors, relieve pain and increase survival, but they also can have significant side effects. These side effects depend of the type and the dose of chemotherapy, but some of the most common include nausea, fever and loss of appetite.
If a patient travels to Moffitt for surgery, the Tampa-based oncology team can work with the patient’s oncologist back home to determine further treatment, so the patient can recover and live in their own home.
Sometimes, a patient may wish to have mesothelioma surgery, but they may not qualify for it. Fontaine ensures all of his patients have every piece of information before making major treatment decisions like having an aggressive surgery. In these scenarios, Fontaine can ask another member of Moffitt’s interdisciplinary mesothelioma research team to step in.
Radiation therapy has become more precise in recent years, allowing it to shrink tumors and reduce breathing problems. It can improve quality of life issues such as pain reduction. Radiation is often prescribed prior to mesothelioma surgery in order to reduce tumors in hopes of making them operable. The oncology team at Moffitt Cancer Center can help patients decide whether radiation may be a viable option to treat their cancer.
While mesothelioma researchers and physicians alike continue to search for a cure, new treatments are being studied every day that could pave the way. These experimental treatments are often available for mesothelioma patients in clinical trials.
The specialized team of Tampa-based oncologists and researchers at Moffitt’s nationally recognized Mesothelioma Treatment & Research Center work tirelessly to offer novel and innovative chemotherapy and vaccines for mesothelioma that may not be available in most other medical centers.
Moffitt’s dedication to mesothelioma shines through in their clinical research. The number and variety of clinical trials hosted at their Tampa campus recently led to a National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation. Moffitt Cancer Center is the only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center based in Florida.