What is an Oncologist?
Table of Contents
An oncologist is a physician or surgeon who specializes in evaluating and treating people suffering with cancer. The three main types of oncologists are medical, surgical, and radiation oncologists. These different types of oncologists often work together to manage care and treat a person diagnosed with cancer. As key members of a medical team, they also work together with other doctors, nurses, lab technicians and orderlies who treat patients.
What does an Oncologist do?
Cancer is a term for a disease in which abnormal cells divide without control and can invade nearby tissues. Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems.
An oncologist is responsible for the care of a patient from the moment of a cancer diagnosis throughout the course of the disease. They will talk with their patient about symptoms, examine them for signs of disease, request and analyze test results, discuss treatment options, and monitor patient progress. Good communication skills, patience and a sense of compassion are key when dealing with patients.
The oncologist’s role includes the following:
- Explaining the cancer diagnosis and stage (describing where the cancer is located, if or where it has spread, and whether it is affecting other parts of the body) to the patient
- Discussing all of the treatment options and recommending the best course of treatment
- Delivering high-quality, compassionate care
- Helping maintain the patient’s quality of life by managing cancer-related pain and other symptoms or treatment side effects, such as constipation, nausea and vomiting, and fatigue
A person with cancer is often treated by a multidisciplinary team of oncologists, meaning a group of doctors who specialize in different areas of oncology. This approach is used because cancer treatment frequently involves a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Types of Oncologists:
A medical oncologist specializes in treating cancer with chemotherapy (the use of drugs to kill cancer cells, usually by stopping the cancer cells’ ability to grow and divide) or other medications, such as targeted therapy and oral (in pill form) chemotherapy.
A surgical oncologist specializes in the removal of the tumour and surrounding tissue during an operation. A surgical oncologist will also perform biopsies (the removal of a small amount of tissue for examination under a microscope).
A radiation oncologist specializes in treating cancer with radiation therapy (the use of high-energy x-rays or other particles to kill cancer cells).
A gynecologic oncologist focuses on the care and treatment of women with gynecologic cancers, such as uterine cancer and cervical cancer.
A pediatric oncologist specializes in the treatment of children with cancer. This includes all three primary oncology disciplines listed above. (Some types of cancer occur most often in children and teenagers, such as certain brain tumours, leukemia, osteosarcoma, and Ewing’s sarcoma. However, they occasionally occur in adults. In these instances, an adult may decide to be treated by a pediatric oncologist.)
A hematologist-oncologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancers of the blood, such as leukemias, lymphomas, and myelomas.
Find your perfect career
Would you make a good oncologist? Sokanu's free assessment reveals how compatible you are with a career across 5 dimensions!
What is the workplace of an Oncologist like?
Most oncologists start their careers in hospitals and clinics, eventually moving into private practice. They typically work long hours and at times are on call. Work can be emotionally draining as a lot of time is spent dealing with patients who have a serious disease; frequent time-out is a must.
Recent Advances in Medical Oncology
Meet Larry Copeland, MD, Gynecologic Oncologist at Ohio State
What is Surgical Oncology?
Childhood Leukemia - Johns Hopkins Pediatric Oncologist Pat Brown, M.D.
Understanding the Basics of Clinical Oncology from Diagnosis to Treatment
Molly Thomas, MD, Hematologist/Oncologist
Is Oncology the Right Choice For You?
A Career in Radiation Oncology
Never a Dull Moment: A Day in the Life of an Oncology Fellow
Oncology fellows represent the future of cancer care, bringing the best and brightest young doctors into a rigorous training environment that moulds their future career paths. Due to an impending workforce shortage in cancer care, the public health-care demands placed on today’s oncology fellows will be greater than ever.
The Making of an Oncologist—The Chicago Cubs Factor
What influences us to choose the specialty of oncology has always interested me. Today there are many training programs and role models for medical students and house officers to emulate.
Skills or Talents You Need to Be an Oncologist
Medical school and a good residency program can qualify you to be an oncologist, and a medical license allows you to practice. Certain skills, however, are needed to be a truly successful oncologist. Interestingly enough, some of these skills have nothing to do with medicine itself — at least not directly.
What is Oncology?
The term oncology literally means a branch of science that deals with tumours and cancers. The word “onco” means bulk, mass, or tumoor while “-logy” means study.