What is an Oncologist?

An oncologist is a doctor whose specialty is in treatment and management of cancer. This involves the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of various cancer types. According to estimates, over 1.7 million persons will undergo a cancer diagnosis in the United States in 2018. This makes the work of oncologists more significant.

Training and job function for oncologists

To provide the most effective and advanced cancer treatment to patients, oncologists undergo rigorous training and education as follows:

  • Pre-medical university education – four years
  • Medical school and acquisition of a master’s or doctorate degree – four years
  • Post-grad training via internships or residency – three to seven years
  • Focus on internal medicine – three to seven years.

This educational preparation equips oncologists with the right expertise to provide accurate diagnosis and treatment recommendations. Oncologists are usually part of a cancer treatment team known as multidisciplinary team (MDT), which includes surgeons, pathologists, radiologists, and special nurses.

Types of oncologists

  • Medical oncologists – These are the day-to-day cancer management experts. While they typically administer chemotherapy, they also often oversee other non-radiological treatments like immunotherapy, targeted therapy, small molecule therapy, and antibody therapy.
  • Clinical oncology – These oncologists have knowledge about treating all types of cancer, although they usually specialize in one or two areas of expertise referred to as site specialties. With their expertise, they provide consultation to medical oncologists during the development of a plan of action. The common site specialties are breast, skin, lung, and many others.

Common types of oncology treatments

  • Chemotherapy – Oncologists use drugs to kill tumors cancer cells
  • Immunotherapy – a therapy that strengthens the immune system of the patient
  • Radiotherapy – radiation treatments are used to destroy cancer cells
  • Surgery –removal of tumors through a surgical procedure
  • Biological therapy – Cancer is fought using substances from other living organisms
  • Endocrine therapy – used for fighting breast cancer

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