An oncologist is a medical practitioner or physician specializing in diagnosing and treating cancer using hormonal therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and biological therapy. According to research, cancer is one of the main causes of death in the U.S. However, the survival rates constantly improve due to the advances in cancer detection, treatment, and management. A lot of credit is due to oncologists who work with a team of healthcare providers, including nurses, dietitians, and pathologists, to treat cancer.
Role of an Oncologist
An oncologist is often the main health care provider for someone who has cancer and stays with them throughout their treatment. This starts with the diagnosis, and their role includes the following:
- Recommending tests to determine whether an individual has cancer
- Explaining the diagnosis of cancer, including the stage and type of cancer, to the patient
- Talking about your treatment choices and other options for treatment
- Delivering compassionate and quality care to the patient
- Helping the patient manage side effects and symptoms of cancer and its treatment
The cancer treatment plan of a patient may include more than one type of treatment like cancer treatment surgery, medications for cancer, and radiation therapy. This means that different oncologists and other health care providers collaborate to create the best treatment plan for the patient. Furthermore, doctors from other areas of specialization may also work with oncologists. For instance, a dermatologist may help an oncologist in treating skin cancer.
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Types of Oncologists
There are three major types of oncology based on treatments:
- Radiation Oncology – Oncologists specialize in treating cancer with radiation therapy. Here, high-energy x-rays or other particles destroy or eliminate cancerous cells.
- Medical Oncology – Oncologists specialize in treating cancer using the medication, including immunotherapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy.
- Surgical Oncology – Oncologists specialize in treating cancer using surgery. This also includes the removal of the tumor and nearby tissue during an operation. Also, such a doctor can perform specific types of biopsies to help diagnose cancer.
Also, there are medical terms for oncologists who specialize in caring for certain groups of cancers or patients:
- Neuro Oncologists - specialize in treating nervous system, spine, and brain cancers.
- Pediatric Oncologists – specialize in treating cancers in teens and children. Often, certain types of cancer are prominent in such age groups. However, if these types of cancer occur in adults, they can choose to work with a pediatric oncologist.
- Geriatric Oncologists – specialize in providing the best care for cancer patients who are 65 and older. Such older patients can have additional challenges. Hence, geriatric oncologists specialize in providing such patients with the best care and comfort.
- Gynecologic Oncologists – specialize in treating cancers in reproductive organs like the fallopian tubes, ovaries, uterus, vulva, vagina, ovaries, and cervix.
- Hematologists - Oncologists – specialize in treating blood cancers like lymphoma, leukemia, and myeloma.
- Thoracic Oncologists – specialize in treating cancers that are present inside the chest area, including the esophagus and lungs.
- Urologic Oncologists – specialize in treating cancers present in the genitourinary system like the penis, kidneys, bladder, testicles, and prostate gland.
A team of highly qualified oncologists guides the patient through all the phases of treatment by carrying out the following:
- Describing the diagnosis and stage of cancer
- Discussing the treatment options
- Recommending an appropriate course of treatment
- Providing optimal care
- Improving the quality of life by providing symptom and pain management
Where Do Oncologists Work?
According to the BLS (Bureaus of Labor Statistics), the most common places where oncologists work include:
- Colleges, universities, and professional schools
- Doctors’ offices
- Federal agencies like the centers for disease control and prevention, national institutes of health, etc.
- Care centers for outpatients
- General medical and surgical hospitals
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Conditions Treated by Oncologists
Oncologists can treat all types of cancer as some specialize in delivering certain therapies, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery. Furthermore, some oncologists focus on treating organ-specific cancers like the following:
- Prostate cancer
- Adrenal cancer
- Skin cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Neck and head cancer
- Liver cancer
- Lung cancer
- Brain cancer
- Breast cancer
- Blood cancers
- Bone cancers
An oncologist is a medical doctor specializing in diagnosing, treating, and managing cancer. Such a medical practitioner possesses the highly specialized knowledge necessary for treating cancer. Many oncologists enhance their practice further by specializing in specific types of cancer or cancer treatments.
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