An oncologist is a physician who specializes in cancer treatment and management. This includes prevention, diagnosis and treatment of different types of cancer. It’s estimated that more than 1.7 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. in 2018, making the oncologist’s role just as important as ever.
Oncologist Training and Job Function
Oncologists undergo rigorous education and training to provide patients with the most advanced and effective cancer treatments available and ideally a better quality of life during a difficult time. Becoming an oncologist generally requires:
- Four years of pre-medical university education
- Four years of medical school and acquiring a master’s or doctorate degree
- Three to seven years of post-grad training through internships and/or residency
- Three- to seven-years focusing on internal medicine
This educational journey provides oncologists with the requisite knowledge and expertise to provide accurate diagnostic and treatment recommendations using biopsy, endoscopy, CT scanning, MRI, PET scanning, ultrasound or radiological methods. Oncologists are often part of a cancer treatment team, called a multidisciplinary team (MDT), that includes surgeons, radiologists, pathologists and specialty nurses.
Types of Oncologists
There are many sub-specialties of oncology, including gynecological, surgical, radiation, pediatric and hematological. However, the field of oncology is most often divided into two categories: medical and clinical.
In general, medical oncologists are the day in, day out cancer management professionals. While they most often administer chemotherapy, they also frequently oversee other common non-radiological treatments such as targeted therapy, immunotherapy, antibody therapy and small molecule therapy.
Their role also involves discussing treatment options, arranging treatment sessions and providing general counseling for patients and their families. Suffice to say, medical oncologists wear many hats throughout the cancer treatment process.
Common medical oncology sub-specialties include gynecological, pediatric, urological and gastrointestinal. Many oncologists also develop interest and specialty skills in palliative care for patients whose cancer cannot be cured.
The primary role of clinical oncologists is to provide radiotherapy treatment. Since most modern cancer treatment strategies involve a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, medical and clinical oncologists often work closely with one another during the treatment process.
Clinical oncologists are knowledgeable about cancer treatments of all kinds, but they often develop an area or two of expertise, known as site specialties. This helps them provide consultations to medical oncologists when developing a plan of action. Common site specialties include skin, breast, lung and genitourinary, though there are many others.
Common Oncology Treatments
As mentioned previously, there are a variety of oncology treatment methods. Depending on the opinion of the oncologist and the MDT, one or more treatments may be administered.
- Chemotherapy – Drugs are used to kill cancer cells and tumors
- Radiotherapy – Cancers cells are destroyed using a series of radiation treatments
- Biological Therapy – Substances from other living organisms are used to fight cancer
- Immunotherapy – A type of biological therapy that helps the patient’s immune system
- Endocrine Therapy – Used to fight breast cancer; also called hormone therapy
- Surgery – Surgical removal of the cancer or tumor from the patient’s body
The oncologist carefully explains each treatment method to the patient and helps them decide which path will be best for their unique situation.
Expert Oncologists in East Texas
We recognize the cancer treatment and management process is often difficult for families, so it’s crucial they work with only the most qualified and caring oncologists. HOPE Cancer Center of East Texas has been providing Tyler, Jacksonville, Henderson, Athens and Cedar Creek households with expert cancer treatment and care since 1989. For more information about our health services, call 903.592.6152 or submit an online form.