Everything that you should know about Oncologist
Cancer and oncologists mostly walk together. They are specialized doctors to treat cancer and in turn they generate huge curiosity among people. And, well if you are also looking up on Oncologists and trying to understand the nitty-gritty of their job, you are not alone. That’s why we have decided to come up with this blog and explain all that you should know about an oncologist and how they have the power to save your life.
Who are Oncologists?
An oncologist is a medical practitioner, who specializes in diagnosing and treating the dreaded disease called cancer. They are the primary healthcare provider for people suffering from cancer to help them live a better life during and after cancer. Undoubtedly, cancer remains one of the leading causes of deaths across the world. However, with the medical advancements in place, the survival rates have improved in every area.
Typically, anyone suffering from cancer needs ample care, motivation, strength, and also closely works with a team of oncologists, dieticians, pathologists, physicians, and nurses to beat cancer. Now, that we have a basic idea, let’s quickly divulge into the details and find out the role of oncologists and how they go about working with cancer.
What are the different types of Oncologists?
The oncologists specialize in one of three major areas i.e., surgical, medical, or radiation. Here’s a detailed look at the different types of oncologists:
A medical oncologist is trained and specialized in diagnosing, treating, and managing cancer through nonsurgical methods like chemotherapy, hormone therapy, biological therapy and targeted therapy. Typically, people with cancer will visit a medical oncologist as they mostly act as primary healthcare providers. Their job is to coordinate their patient’s cancer treatment plans with other healthcare practitioners in the team along with closely monitoring them for any side effects. Medical oncologists are also supposed to follow up with cancer survivors after they have completed their treatment to know about their well-being.
As the name suggests, surgical oncologists are surgeons who likewise specialize in diagnosing, treating, and managing cancer treatment. With the onset of cancer, most patients go for a surgical oncologist first after the primary diagnosis for further evaluation. The surgical oncologists are responsible to confirm the cancer diagnoses through tests like biopsies, imaging tests, etc., and then determine the stage of cancer. The biopsies are a confirmed cancer test that involves removing a small sample of suspected cancer tissue and then examining it to look for the growth of cancer cells.
Besides, the surgical oncologists can also recommend treatment options based on all the information they gather from the tests. However, if the biopsy reveals the growth of cancerous cells in the sample, the surgical oncologist can chalk out a definite plan to remove the tumor and the surrounding tissues to keep it from spreading.
As cancer progresses, there are different types of treatment from surgery to radiation therapy. That’s where a radiation oncologist comes to play. This type of medical practitioner specializes in delivering internal and external radiation therapy to treat cancer.
While external radiation therapy involves using high-energy photon beams to eradicate the cancer cells and shrink tumors. But, internal radiation therapy is a lot more systemic treatment where it involves swallowing, implanting, or injecting a radioactive material, like radioactive iodine, into the patient’s body.
Radiation therapy is not the ultimate cancer treatment. It can be coupled with other treatments like surgery, medication to completely get rid of cancer. For instance, a patient might receive some amount of radiation therapy to shrink the malignant tumor before undergoing surgery.
What are the Other Oncology Specialties?
The above three types of oncologists are just not the only kind. Many other types of oncologists can specialize in treating specific types of cancers that affect a particular part of the body. Here are a few examples of other types of oncology specialists available:
- Geriatric Oncology
- Gastrointestinal Oncology
- Musculoskeletal Oncology
- Gynecologic Oncology
- Pediatric Oncology
What are Oncologists Supposed to do?
Anyone who has undergone a primary evaluation of cancer or shows symptoms of cancer, visit an oncologist. However, the primary evaluation is mostly done by General physicians who either use MRI or CT scan, and blood tests to determine the possible best treatment options. Thus, once the oncologist comes into play, they can also rope in specialists as part of the treatment team and plan the treatment plan. However, the exact treatment plan finally depends on the stage and type of cancer.
The oncologists treat early-stage cancer and benign tumors with either surgery or radiation therapy. While the advanced cancers are treated with a more systematic approach, cancer might have already spread to different parts of the body. Also, the oncologists can not only diagnose cancer, but they can also plan treatments and are responsible to closely monitor the cancer progression. Mostly, if it’s a complicated case, all different types of oncologists get together to perform different aspects of the treatment like the surgical oncologists can perform surgeries and perform biopsies, while the radiation oncologists are supposed to administer different forms of radiation therapy to shrink tumors and kill the cancer cells.
However, cancer treatment doesn’t end there. After the successful completion of treatment, the patient has to be in constant touch with a medical oncologist who will follow-up regularly on their health. The medical oncologist may also run different tests to check the signs of cancer relapse or any other physical or emotional needs the patient might need.
What are the Different Conditions Oncologists Treat?
The oncologists are capable of treating all types of cancer. However, some of those might be exceptionally specialized in delivering specific treatments like Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or surgery. Here’s a list of all the different types of cancers an oncologist can treat:
- Blood cancer
- Bone cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Cervical Cancer
- Brain cancer
- Breast cancer
- Lung cancer
- Head and Neck cancer
- Liver cancer
- Skin cancer
- Prostate cancer
What is the Qualification of an Oncologist?
Oncologists before they proceed to treat anybody must meet specific experience and education requirements to be a licensed medical practitioner. In the education aspect, as an oncologist, you need to undergo a four-year bachelor’s degree and followed by four years of training at a medical school. Most doctors do not begin their specialization in oncology until they finish their medical school as oncology is a subspecialty of internal medicine.
Now, to move to the subfield, to be a medical oncologist, the doctors must complete a further two to three years in a medical oncology fellowship. While to become a surgical oncologist, one must complete a general surgical residency, then follow it with a two-year surgical oncology fellowship. Also, to become a radiation oncologist, one has to go through a five-year process that involves an internship in internal medicine, which then should be followed by a radiation oncology residency.
The Bottom Line
Oncologists are highly specialized and possess knowledge that is necessary to diagnose and treat cancer. However, some oncologists move to take up further subfield specialization to hone their practice. So, probably an oncologist is the most important part of the cancer treatment along with a lot more aspects.