Medical oncology is the field of medicine that focuses mainly on research, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer using medical treatments such as medications and drugs.
Medical Oncologists are the doctors who specialize in this field. They are one of four main types of oncologists;
- Surgical Oncologist
- Radiation Oncologist
- Pediatric Oncologist
- Medical Oncologist
A medical oncologist is often the first cancer specialist that a patient speaks to once they are diagnosed. Compared to other types of doctors, medical oncologists go through a considerable amount of training. Once they become a doctor there are still years of ongoing education and training before they are eligible for certification by the American Board of Internal Medicine. (browse the directory to find a local oncologist)
Common cancer treatments that medical oncologists deal with include chemotherapy and hormone therapy. As with many cancer specialists, medical oncologists are a part of an oncology team that treats a patient with cancer. The team includes other specialists, nurses, and sometimes social workers. The medical oncologist is often the leader of this team.
The role of medical oncology is to educate patients about their condition and to help them determine the best plan of action. Treatment plans and options depend on many factors. The patient’s age, health, sex, and medical history are taken into consideration. The type and stage of the patient’s cancer is a major consideration.
In some cases of early cancer medical oncologists are hoping to eradicate the cancer. In other more advanced cases when they know there is no cure, the medical oncologist can help the patient deal with pain and discomfort.
Medical oncologists rely on information from the oncology team to make accurate diagnosis and treatment plans. Pathologists help them interpret test results and diagnostic radiologists provide information based on imaging tests and x-rays.
Chemotherapy is a common type of treatment that slows or kills the growth of cancer cells. While it does this though it can also cause many harmful side effects. Patients may experience some or none of these side effects. Medical oncology helps patients deal with these side effects. They can include hair loss, debilitating nausea, and extreme fatigue. Medical oncologists also help patients manage their disease through lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, smoking, and drinking alcohol.
Besides chemotherapy, medical oncology also deals with other treatments such as hyperthermia and the use of angiogenesis inhibitors. Hyperthermia is a method that uses heat to treat tumors. Angiogenesis inhibitors work by cutting off the blood supply to the tumor.
Once a patient is in remission a medical oncologist is there to help them manage and monitor their disease in an effort to prevent further cancer. In the big picture the field of medical oncology aims to educate, research, and prevent cancer. It is a field of study with ongoing clinical trials as the search for better and more effective medications continues.